AWMI is unique in that we have 5 CFPs® on our staff. We have always held ourselves to the highest standards of fiduciary responsibility to our clients as trusted experts. The Board that governs CFP® certificants is now going the extra step to be sure that all CFPs® are held to the highest standards in a new updated CFP® Board Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. If you have seen the excellent commercial, produced by the CFP® Board with the drummer who puts on a suit and holds himself out to be a financial planner, you know that it’s a buyer beware environment when you don’t look for documented professional qualifications.
The new code of conduct, which is still in the comment phase, was proposed to hold CFP® Certificants to the Fiduciary Standard when advising clients on all investments (it has always been required when performing planning). The new standards of conduct will also clarify the way CFP® Certificants represent their compensation and how they disclose and treat conflicts of interest with our clients. Standards that we have always followed. The primary impact on our operations will be more documentation.
It is no coincidence that this CFP® rewrite is happening as we are hearing about the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule for the general financial services community. This rule is only partially in effect and now looks likely to be postponed and may ultimately be changed under President Trump and his administration. Prior to this rule, financial service providers only had to meet a lower “suitability standard” for investment recommendations to their customers. As a Registered Investment Advisor, we have always had to meet the fiduciary rule and we support the rule to now include all financial service providers. However, the DOL’s Fiduciary rule is being met with a great deal of financial services industry resistance. As far as the new CFP Board standards, there is general support among certificants to raise these standards.
We here at AWMI as fee-only advisors have always been fiduciaries and support this direction by the CFP® Board because we believe that ultimately our job may be a little harder but the public will benefit. AWMI has always met the definition of Fee-Only Planners and we have always disclosed any conflicts of interest to you, our client. The clarifications offered by the CFP® Board will allow the public to find a clear path to objective advice given solely for their benefit. CFP® Certificants have already had to meet a rigorous education standard. We look forward to continuing to support the highest standards of conduct in our industry.
Marietta Hall, CFP®