The Carson Group has ramped up its fiduciary efforts for wholly owned Carson Wealth offices. The Omaha, Neb.-based registered investment advisor announced Tuesday it was requiring its in-house advisors to hold or maintain a certified financial planner designation or an equivalent credential.
“We believe in the importance of acting in the best interest of the clients that we serve," said Jamie Hopkins, the managing director of Carson Coaching and director of Retirement Research at Carson Group, in a statement. "Our advisors are held to a fiduciary standard, but we believe that financial advisors need to go even further. It doesn't end at putting a client's interests first, there should be a legal standard. We also owe it to our clients to uphold an ethics standard and we owe it to ourselves and the profession to continue to further our own education."
The other designation Carson deemed equivalent to the CFP is the chartered financial consultant, or ChFC, which is awarded by the American College of Financial Services. The ChFC qualifies holders to sit for the CFP exam as it covers all the education requirements, said Hopkins in an email.
While Hopkins said he thought the CFP designation is an important one for the industry, he noted that the Carson Group already adheres to a fiduciary standard of care and that the ChFC also allows the firm to be inclusive of advisors with two-year degrees. The CFP Board requires CFP candidates to have or be in the process of receiving a bachelor’s degree.
Prior to joining the Carson Group, Hopkins worked at the American College for six years, first as a professor and then later as the director of retirement research.
Hopkins has been a harsh critic of financial advisors, commonly saying that he would only hire about five to 10% of the industry. This push is Hopkins's and Carson’s way of creating a standard level of education for the wealth management business he said, allowing clients to walk into any office and know that they are getting the best level of care.
The CFP Board doesn’t track the number of firms requiring its advisors to be CFPs. But a search through job boards for wealth management displays numerous positions (senior and entry-level) preferring or necessitating the designation.
Practices with CFPs on staff produce 40% more revenue and attract 53% more high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients, according to a 2016 Aite Group study, the independent research and advisory firm commissioned by the CFP Board.
The move toward a required certification was brought on by the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest and the Department of Labor’s recent proposal for a new fiduciary rule. Also cited in the release was Carson’s in-house study of investors, which noted more than eight in 10 respondents found it important for their advisors to make recommendations in the investor’s best interest or act as a fiduciary.
“We are entering a time period where regulations are blurring the lines around true fiduciary advisors. A focus on families, education, ethics, and experience are important for any profession, but today it is something that firms need to lead with to best serve their clients,” Hopkins said.