By Taylor Liao, CFP, Chinese Taipei
CFP professionals are held to different education standards around the world. This is due to the differences in language, law and tax rules in the 24 territories where CFP certification is offered. One of the challenges that prevents students from earning their CFP certification in the first place and stops CFP professionals from renewing their certification is how to start a fee-based consulting practice. When people observe others giving up on CFP certification, they give up too and it causes a negative cycle leading to less CFP professionals overall.
Instead of focusing on training new people to pass the examination, FPSBshould put more effort into helping existing CFP certificants become successful in their practices. Passing the CFP examination only provides the minimum knowledge to be a financial planner, but to be a really competent planner, one needs ongoing education to gain knowledge about practice management. This is the reason CFP professionals struggle in my territory; they lack practice knowledge. I feel strongly that the education material needs to be more practical.
To earn CFP certification, one has to do 240 hours of training. The training program includes six modules: tax, investment, insurance…etc. All of the material is theoretical and most of the time, the teachers don’t have any experience in actual practice. So, almost all new professionals have little to no knowledge of how to start their careers as fee-based planners when they receive their certification. I remember when I got my certification, I only had knowledge about the six steps of financial planning: establish relationship, gather data, etc.
Challenges Facing Financial Planners
There are only a few financial planning firms in Taiwan and to be frank, it is hard to treat financial planning as a profession at the moment. Not many people are willing to join the planning practice right now because of all the challenges they have to overcome, including charging fees and mastering standard operating processes (SOPs).
Practicing financial planning requires a vast skillset that includes financial analysis, insurance, investment, law, taxes, etc. It’s hard for one person to be skilled in all these areas. Some people have focuses in financial planning and insurance, but aren’t necessarily good in all areas. There are only 1,100 CFP certificants in Taiwan right now and we are struggling to be successful for this reason.
Some people may argue that it is natural to gain experiential knowledge after the exam through CPD. Unfortunately, the CPD courses offered don’t fit the needs of CFP professionals who need practice knowledge because the profession is only 10 years old in Taiwan. Taiwan only became a Member of FPSB in 2003 – this is not enough time for the financial planning profession to mature. Financial planning firms are not yet well-established and only a few independent advisers are pursuing the challenge of forming a large scale business in a market that doesn’t support the industry. With only 10 years of experience, there is not a lot of expertise to share to new professionals.
According to FPSB’s 2011 Stakeholder Report, FPSB has 24 members worldwide and they all run separately. The total count of CFP Professionals in 11 of FPSB’s territories equals less than 1,000 people. I wonder what problems these 11 territories all share. Are they facing the same problems Taiwan is? Our biggest problems is that CFP professionals are struggling to establish successful fee-based businesses and the certification organization,FPAT, has difficulty maintaining a membership of only 600 CFP certificants.
A World Class Standard
If the financial planning profession wants to have a world class standard, FPSB must play an active role to do something to help to grow the profession in each territory. FPSB has 24 members around the world, and over 147,000 CFP certificants (as of 12/31/2013). It would be so great if CFP certificants shared their experiences and learned from each other. FPSB is in a good position to act as the worldwide resource center for CFP professionals.
When reviewing the 24 territories that offer CFP certification, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia all have decades of experience. They should be sharing their expert knowledge so professionals around the world can benefit. Professionals from these territories could discuss and share their opinions on topics such as finding new clients or communicating with clients. This information could be delivered as an e-learning course that is accessible through a protected website.
The easiest way for FPSB to grow CFP professionals globally is to empower and create mediums for professionals to exchange their knowledge, therefore I would like to see FPSB build a website with the following functions:
A global resource center: This could be a place where financial planning materials are shared: data gathering forms, financial planning books, etc. I think it could be like an app store for CFP professionals. Everyone has something to offer – a video, an article, etc. The local organizations can validate whether the information is suitable to publish according to the standards set by FPSB. The cost of the material could vary and could be shared between the author and the organizations.
An e-learning center: This would offer a wide range of CPD courses covering a variety of topics regarding the financial planning practice. An issue Taiwan faces is a shortage of trainers since the industry is so young.