CFP Ethics Training – Some Rules Don’t make Sense!

Some years back Barclays contacted me about recording special training for Certified Financial Planners.  They wanted to offer Ethics Training for free through their iShares brand recognizing their commitment to ethical behavior in the financial services arena.  Their thought, provide the “required” training for free – what better way to demonstrate their commitment to ethical CFP Ethics Trainingbehavior.  The project was approved by the appropriate authorities and together we created some pretty dog gone good training – at least that’s the feedback we received.

Great Concept but then something changed and not for the better when it comes to CFP Ethics Training!

While the guiding ethical principles for Certified Financial Planners has not changed, the requirements for who is eligible to present these standards has and that, for me is the rub.

Now some may say that my complaint is self-serving and it is, but I think that the issue of who can present a set of standards and help professionals know, at a deeper level, why good people make unethical decisions and how to prevent that should take priority.  Let me explain.

Today I am not eligible to teach CFP’s their ethical standards.  Why?  Well here are their guidelines:


The instructor and author of an Ethics CE program must:

  1. Hold current CFP® certification, with all CFP Board continuing education requirements up-to-date and all CFP Board renewal and other fees paid in full.
  2. Have held CFP® certification for 5 years or more.
  3. Not be the subject of a pending investigation by CFP Board or any federal or state regulator.
  4. Not have been the subject of a CFP Board discipline (i.e. private censure, public letter of admonition, or suspension) received within the past five years.
  5. Complete CFP Board ethics instructor and author webinar.

This makes no sense…

Effectively the CFP Board has elected to create a closed loop of individuals who teach their own ethics and ethical behavior.  So people who are Certified Financial Planners – folks who advise others related to financial issues – folks who are not ethics professionals or are not professional trainers – are the only folks who can train ethics to other CFP’s.  This makes no sense.

Christopher Bauer, PhD is a professional ethics trainer – so is Bruce Weinstein, PhD.  Both are tops in their field (and I’d like to think that I’m pretty good as well), but non of us are CFP’s and hence would be barred from bring our insight and wisdom to the application of the 7 ethics principles that create the foundation for ethical behavior for Certified Financial Planners.

For all practical purposes the only person that is allowed to present ethics material to CFPs is a fellow CFP.  No outside input allowed.  No professional ethics trainer input allowed.  No open dialogue with a professional ethicist allowed.  Sorry but there is something a miss here!

What does the CFP Board fear by restricting ethics instruction to only those holding a CFP license?  Do CFPs hold some magic insight into how to apply ethical behavior within their profession?

Let’s put this into perspective.  I am an approved ethics instructor for CPAs, Attorneys, Insurance Professionals and a host of other professions.  I study those professions in depth including their rules and ethics standards.  As an outsider, I am able to view with an objective eye what happens, how it is that good people make unethical decisions, and what we can do (within the profession) to promote ethical adherence to the ethics standards.

With respect to the CFP Board – its time to ask yourself this question – is it ethical for us to deny our profession the benefit of professional ethicists who can bring insight and a fresh perspective to ethics application for CFPs?  CFPs have called many times over the past several years wanting ethics training that is meaningful and pertinent to their daily needs and issues.  I have to turn them down.  Sad!




Posted by Chuck Gallagher in Certified Financial Planners, ethics training and tagged , , , , , , .

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