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Irish Eyes Smile On Financial Planning

By Dan Candura, CFP 

One of the newest countries to offer CFP certification is the Republic of Ireland. During a recent visit to the Emerald Isle I got to sit down with Paul Grimes the CEO of the Financial Planning Standards Board of Ireland to talk about financial planning and the growth of the profession in this island nation of 4.5 million people.

If you’ve ever been to Ireland you know the warmth and hospitality of its people and Paul was a fine example of both – generously sharing his time to tell me how he and his fledgling band of CFP certificants launched a profession that serves Irish consumers with the high standards representative of the CFP marks to restore faith with consumers who saw the Celtic Tiger mauled by a global financial crisis of historic proportions.

Paul’s career includes time as a financial advisor in Australia before establishing a practice in Ireland.  And like me, he also maintains a training and consulting practice rooted in his years working for large financial services organizations. This background will serve him well in his new role.

Irish Regulation

Irish regulators require those offering financial products and services to complete a course of study leading to a Professional Diploma in Financial Advice and designation as a Qualified Financial Adviser. Without a higher level of qualification, experienced professionals were looking for a way to distinguish themselves from the crowd. CFP certification was the answer. The banking and insurance associations, already involved in training associates to attain the minimum standards of Qualified Financial Adviser status, were natural partners to help FPSB Ireland introduce the more rigorous curriculum and requirements of the CFP Marks. The initial class of 111 Irish CFP professionals emerged in 2011. A few held the CFP marks in other countries (UK, Australia) but the great majority we’re new certificants anxious to embrace a comprehensive approach to serving clients. The organization added 37 more certificants in its second year as a certifying body. Ultimately FPSB Ireland hopes to have thousands of certificants in its ranks. Since Dublin represents about 25% of the population, it is likely that the greatest concentration of CFP professionals will be nearby.

Bank failures and plummeting real estate values destroyed the trust that Irish consumers had in financial intermediaries. They remain uncertain about how to manage their financial lives in a global economy that can wipe out large institutions and even bring governments to their knees. These pioneering Irish CFP professionals hope that the high standards of CFP certification can become a catalyst for restoring public trust in the financial advisory profession.

FPSB Ireland

In it first year of operation, FPSB Ireland held two continuing education events. All but a handful of the certificant population attended. Despite this exceptional level of attendance, Irish certificants remain so hungry for knowledge that some are organizing additional CE opportunities for independent advisors. I met with two during my visit – Marc Westlake and Frank Mulcahy. Both are veteran advisers with international experience who relocated to Ireland to launch advisory practices. Marc put his own conference together for like-minded advisors and created a curriculum for submission to FPSB Ireland without knowing it and how it would get approved. The knowledge gained was more important than the credit hours. When the CE credits are approved, that will be a nice bonus.

With this type of commitment to creating a profession, there is no doubt that the future of financial planning in Ireland smiles very brightly indeed.

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