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CFP Certification at a Turning Point in Taiwan

By KP Liu, CFP, CEO of FPAT

Financial Planning Association of Taiwan (FPAT) is a standards setting body with limited resources on hand. Unlike certification organizations in other territories, FPAT is not involved in the education piece of the CFP certification program, with the end result being that FPAT has limited financial resources.

One of the main reasons Taiwan is facing declining growth in CFP certificants is simply because the market receptiveness towards the “financial planning” concept is very low. The prevailing practice in the market is “product selling and chasing”! The market is dominated by large international and local financial institutions. There is hardly any space for “independent” players largely because consumers and regulators still feel most comfortable with large brand names.

FPAT’s vision is to create a brand new profession for CFP certificants but we can only build this profession with the resources available to us. Since we have very limited resources, we have chosen to focus on regulators and large financial institutions as our major supporters. This strategy has been in place since FPAT’s inception in 2004.

Partnering with Cathay Life

One of our achievements this year was partnering with the largest life insurance company in Taiwan, Cathay Life, to become one of our qualified trainers. Cathay Life is one of our founding members and after 10 years, they have finally decided to embrace and promote the CFP/AFP certification program among their insurance agents.

Developing a successful CFP certification program in Taiwan is a long and winding road. What I can assure the public is the quality of our CFP certificants is no doubt the best in the financial services market. What we need is for the market to mature. With Cathay Life on board, we hope the financial industry will slowly pick up the message and follow suit.

4 comments to CFP Certification at a Turning Point in Taiwan

  • Simon

    It is so funny to check the fact and logic. In the past, to assure a justice of CFP brining up plan, FPAT’s official article only accept non-profit organization to execute CFP training program. However, as FPAT financial issue, FPAT customize your official article this year for Cathay life insurance company, a sales-oriented company, to obtain their money to survive. Is it a good way for CFP professional promotion? or just a temporarily short sight benefit but harm the long time benefit for whole CFP professionals in Taiwan.

    KP Liu, CEO of FPAT, think about it please.

  • Taylor Liao

    I don’t see that as a unacceptable change. If FPAT accept Cathay as a training organization and low down it’s requirement for passing the CFP examination. Then, it’s an tailor-made change for Cathay. It would be a wrong decision to accept Cathay, otherwise I can’t see any reason for not doing this. If the criteria to get the certification is still the same, it’s the way to enlarge the population of attending the CFP training program, and that’s a positive way for developing the CFP profession in Taiwan.

  • Christine Chang

    what happened in other country? I am curious that only non-profit organization could be authorized as a training institute in America?
    I think, anyone who is capable to offer professional education program and willing to follow the CFP philosophy could be qualified as a trainer. However, who will monitor them,effectively?

  • Two dilemmas are revealed in this discussion:
    1) How to foster a genuinely professional financial advice community in Taiwan – and how to focus this on the CFP marks; and
    2) How to fund a professional body.
    These are common dilemmas in our infant profession, especially in its early stages. But both have been and are being faced in countries outside Asia. Here are some comments from the New Zealand perspective.
    The core issue that must be addressed globally if the CFP is ever to overcome the “not quite a profession” tag is conflicts of interest.
    We must not forget that what motivates life insurance companies and other financial institutions when they offer financial and other support to bodies such as FPAT, TFPA – or IFA (http://www.ifa.org.nz) in New Zealand is likely to differ from what motivates practitioners who are striving to establish a true profession.
    Product suppliers want to sell more products, and for those sales to stick better. They also want to protect and strengthen their brand: to leverage trust among consumers. Translated into MBA speak: they want to increase the size and quality of their revenue streams; protect and grow value for shareholders.
    True professionals also want to be trusted. They want to “do the right thing”, putting clients first, helping them solve their problems and meet their goals. They also want to build a professional brand for their own benefit and for the benefit of society, and they want to earn lots of money – but never by compromising their core “client first” commitment.
    There are common threads here, but at the heart of any “partnership” between a product provider and a practitioner (whether in medicine, financial planning or any other field) there will be conflicts of interest. Not the only source by any means, but certainly the most widespread source of conflicts of interest in financial services, is commission paid to a supposedly “independent adviser.” And the most pernicious conflicts arise when the commission is paid for the sale of a savings or investment linked product.
    A true profession cannot develop or flourish if its members continue to embrace a remuneration model based on an adviser (A) being rewarded by a product provider (B) for recommending B’s products to a client (C). Especially when the money B uses to pay A’s commission actually must come – one way or another – from money that C has invested.
    So it’s better to move away from commission altogether – especially for investment products and or for “independent” advisers. Any commission that is accepted must be clearly and effectively disclosed, and the choice of product and provider must be objectively shown to be in the client’s interests.
    By extension, without careful ground rules, “partnerships” between product providers and professional bodies are also likely to be or become tainted by the clash between product providers’ and the professional practitioners’ motivations.
    Conflicts of interest can also arise with fee-based remuneration. So moving from commission to fees doesn’t mean that all conflicts are eliminated. But if our profession is to flourish – and if consumers are to learn to trust us, we must be honest and open in all our dealings, working to avoid, eliminate or at the very least clearly manage conflicts of interest.
    So returning to dilemmas 1) and 2):
    1) Fostering a genuinely professional financial advice community that is focused on the CFP marks requires members of the community, and those who set the CFP standards (and in the spirit of open disclosure I must declare that I am currently a member of the Standards Committee of FPSB – http://www.fpsb.org), to clearly, rigorously and unequivocally espouse and promote “client first” principles and rules.
    2) A true professional body must ultimately be funded by its members. If 500 members pay $500 each year, that’s $250,000. That’s a start. Maybe not enough to hire many staff, but enough for a volunteer-run body to get on with standards development and promotion to its target adviser community, perhaps even to the public at large.
    Selling training might sound like a good way to fund a small, struggling professional body. But just as selling financial products, selling training courses also leads to conflicts of interest. Professional bodies should set and develop standards, and issue and or oversee the issuance of professional credentials. Best to leave course delivery to training organizations.

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