Some of these individuals have described themselves as Financial Planners and we’ve had a number of distinguished planners get in touch to ask why we refer to them as Financial Planners when, by several definitions, they are not fit to use the name.
This is a very reasonable question. As the only UK professional publication focused exclusively on Financial Planners, Paraplanners and Wealth Managers we have a responsibility to report on the Financial Planning sector as fairly as possible and we strive to do this constantly.
There are difficulties, however, in defining who is a Financial Planner and who is an IFA, wealth manager, consultant, financial adviser and so on. There are a myriad of terms for UK financial advisers. The public must be completely baffled because the titles are often used interchangeably. Because there is no legal protection for the designation ‘Financial Planner’, unlike say ‘dentist’ or ‘doctor’, it will always be a minefield until this changes and legal protection is introduced and enforced.
At present Financial Planning Today uses two main criteria in deciding who is a Financial Planner. Firstly, we try where possible to refer to those with the relevant Financial Planning qualifications, such as Certified Financial Planner or Chartered Financial Planner by their correct titles and use hard-earned designatory letters where appropriate. This is our preferred usage and most people would agree these are the best and most qualified Financial Planners in the UK and worthy of the valuable term Financial Planner.
The second criteria is harder to define but if an adviser describes themselves as a Financial Planner or as offering Financial Planning services we have little choice but to use the term because at present there is nothing to stop them using these words. Many will be excellent Financial Planners but some will not. There is, of course, no guarantee that Certified or Chartered Financial Planners are outstandingly good at giving advice but they are certainly covered by much stricter professional rules which give consumers a great deal of protection and keep standards generally high.
Where there is lack of clarity or the firm or individual refers to themselves as an IFA, financial adviser, wealth manager or similar we use those terms to try and differentiate between those who operate as Financial Planners and those who just see themselves as part of the mainstream IFA sector.
I fully understand why some professionally-qualified Financial Planners get annoyed when crooks use this term, clearly debasing it to some degree.
Rogues will use any valuable designation because it is helpful in establishing what they believe is a professional reputation and cheating people.
As an editor and journalist covering this area for over 20 years I am frankly surprised the professional bodies have not done more to secure legal protection for the term Financial Planner from the government. Of course, Chartered Financial Planner is a protected term under the rules of Royal Charters. Certified Financial Planner also has some trademark protection but there’s more to do. Financial Planner should be a protected job definition in the same way as ‘doctor’ because it would, at the very least, help cut down on scams.
Given the problem of poor definition of Financial Planning is growing now is a good time for the professional bodies and trade associations to band together and seek to ring fence the term ‘Financial Planner’ before it is further debased. It may be a long process but the time to start the journey is now.
• Until 20 June 2018 we are conducting a survey on the State of the Financial Planning profession. The survey will take about 10 minutes and for completing the survey you can be entered into a prize draw to win one of five £50 M&S Vouchers.
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Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with over 20 years of experience