The dustup began when Lauren Schadle, the Financial Planning Association's incoming CEO, told an interviewer that the FPA is "putting together action plans that speak to the FPA's being the professional resource and advocate for CFP professionals ... we believe that one profession and one designation is the best way to build the financial planning profession."
Larry Barton, the CEO of the American College, which awards the ChFC and CLU designations, reacted by pronouncing those comments as "ill-informed and detrimental to consumers, especially those in the middle and lower income brackets."
In a statement, Barton asserted that "No one designation can embrace the full gamut of consumer needs." Barton added that consumers must have a choice of quality, reputable designations to select from.
"Fee-only planners typically charge around $2,500 just for a financial plan," Barton stated. "While the affluent may be able to afford a fee-only planner, there are many who work for banks, mutual fund companies, insurance companies and accounting firms who can also provide very sound planning advice. Who is speaking on behalf of all consumers, not just the affluent?"
The FPA is backing, rather than backing away from, Schadle's comments. Responding to a query from Financial Planning, Paul Auslander, 2012 FPA president, reiterated that, the "FPA is coalescing around one designation for the financial planning profession. From our standpoint, the CFP designation is THE standard because it has the rigor of enforcement, continuing education requirements, ethics, experience - and, as importantly, consumer confidence. The CFP certification is specific to financial planning and those who hold it operate under a variety of business models in order to serve many clients and their needs."
The FPA's support of the CFP designation as the standard for financial planners can only help the profession, said Auslander, who is chairman and CEO of American Financial Advisors in Orlando.
"While our focus is on building a profession by making CFP practitioners synonymous with financial planners, we value all professionals in our association who support the work of CFP practitioners or who aspire to become a CFP practitioner," he said.
In another response to Financial Planning, the CFP Board's CEO, Kevin Keller, affirmed his group's relationship with the FPA. As he put it, "Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards considers itself a partner with the Financial Planning Association and fully supports its 'one profession, one designation' position."
Keller went on to downplay the idea that CFPs just work on behalf of the affluent.
"A recent study by the Aite Group found that in solo practices led by a CFP professional, they serve an 'equal percentage of mass-retail clients as solo practices without a CFP professional," he said. "And team-based practices 'that have a CFP professional work with a larger percentage of mass-retail clients compared to team-based practices without a CFP professional.'"