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Point/Counterpoint: How important is initial and ongoing education to being a successful financial planning professional?

Simon Hassan, CFP, New Zealand:

Not only is it necessary to attain and maintain your knowledge and skills, it is also a sign of your commitment to being part of a profession that puts clients first.  As research shows, it will also probably improve your income and the long-term value of your business.

But I’m not convinced a degree pre-requisite is essential.  While we need complex knowledge and to be able to interrelate and prioritize complex issues, personal and communications skills really mark out the successful financial planner.  These are not – cannot be – learned in academia.

I think a degree is a great grounding for a financial planner, but it would be a mistake to think this is the most important or even an essential pre-requisite.

Suresh Sadagopan, CFP, India:

Clients come to us for advice on financial matters, so it is necessary to have a level of knowledge and skill that is suitable to advise a client correctly. Ongoing, continuing education keeps financial planners current and allows them to maintain a competitive edge. I think the education requirements for financial planning should be pegged at a higher level given the complex financial landscape that confronts us. I would go to the extent of saying that we need a CFP++ professional course to update ourselves academically in the financial planning area.

One of the current discussions is whether a college degree should be a prerequisite for financial planners. The ASIC consultation paper is seeking to introduce degree education as a minimum education standard for financial planners in Australia.

In my opinion, this is a good thing for the following reasons:

  1. Financial planners are now dealing with clients across the spectrum and need to have a baseline education before earning a professional certification like the CFP designation.  There is a certain level of knowledge and maturity when one has earned a college degree as well as their CFP certification. In India, there is a visible difference between those who have achieved a degree and those who have not.
  2. A degree requirement acts as a filter and ensures that only those individuals who are serious pursue the CFP credential. Raising the minimum education requirement would in turn decrease the number of people who enter the financial planning profession, which I see as a good thing.
  3. Financial planners should have a wide range of knowledge so they can engage and relate to a diverse client set. A degree is a way of ensuring that the planner starts off with a base knowledge in the subject matter of schooling and financial planning. Someone who has completed a college degree has demonstrated motivation as well as gained knowledge in many different areas. Personally, I have found that a large knowledge base is very useful when engaging and connecting with clients.

See Financial Planet’s Poll Results: Should a college degree be required to become a CFP professional?

2 comments to Point/Counterpoint: How important is initial and ongoing education to being a successful financial planning professional?

  • I believe financial academics is *VERY* important! Of course, real life experience will always help us relate to clients and put some common sense into planning strategies; but, without intellectual financial knowledge, how could we possibly be able to provide the latest and best unbiased educated advice? Professional opinions cannot be the only, nor the most important guide to our profession. I am a believer of Financial Planning academic degrees and classes. I am a current candidate for the CFP(r) exam, and see this designation as crucial to my career for my clients.

  • Extremely important! Without being taught by those books or colleagues) who supersede our ability as professionals, we won’t grow. If we don’t grow and continually seek opportunities to grow further, our clients won’t grow, which is the whole point of our service.

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