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CFP Board's new ad campaign to target client emotional well-being

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The CFP Board is gearing up to launch a new phase of its marketing campaign, this time focusing on the emotional well-being of clients.

In the fall, the board plans to release a new wave of advertisements across multiple media platforms to tout the CFP designation as the gold standard of financial advice. The campaign builds on market research conducted on consumer sentiment of the planning profession.

In focus groups, consumers who worked with a planner reported feeling more "confident, optimistic, secure and at ease," according to Kevin Keller, the CFP Board's CEO.

"That is the opposite of the worry and stress that were cited by people who did not have a financial plan," Keller said in an online presentation outlining the board's business objectives.

"We're finding that people realize they need help with financial planning, and they envision specific emotional benefits from doing so. That is quite powerful," Keller said.

The new campaign is scheduled to go into production this summer. It will hit airwaves, print media and online publications after Labor Day.

The Let's Make a Plan campaign, launched in April 2011, has not been without controversy. Some CFPs have grumbled about funding the effort through a hike in their certificant fees.

To date, the board has spent $73 million on the campaign, which now carries a nearly $12 million annual budget.

That "might seem like a lot to most people, but in the world of advertising it's just a drop in the bucket," said Susan John, the chairwoman-elect of the CFP Board's board of directors, during the online presentation.

The CFP Board credits its advertising and public relations campaign with boosting awareness of the financial planning profession and the CFP credential.

The board is also expanding its diversity initiative beyond the gender imbalance in the planning field to focus on racial and ethnic minorities.

Building on its Women's Initiative, the CFP Board is now looking to promote the profession to other underrepresented groups, with a diversity summit scheduled in October in New York, according to John.

The board is also touting its new code of ethics and standards of conduct. The new code will take effect October 2019.It will require advisors to act as fiduciaries at all times, a stipulation that has met with some resistance among CFPs, many of whom are brokers.

"I would respectfully disagree that it's going to be that hard for advisors to comply with the standard of putting your client's best interest first any time you're delivering financial advice," said Richard Salmen, the chairman of the CFP Board's board of directors, during the presentation.

Salmen rejects the notion that some CFPs will let their certification lapse as a result of the always-on fiduciary requirement. Instead, he argues there is emerging awareness about fiduciary responsibilities among investors spurred on by the highly publicized debate over the Department of Labor's now-defunct fiduciary rule. He says he is frequently asked whether he is a fiduciary or CFP prospective clients.

Clients ask whether their advisors are obligated to act as fiduciaries all the time, both Salmen and John say. They are also looking for holistic planning services more frequently, rather than just periodic investment advice.

"There are consumers that are now aware enough and educated enough to know what to ask for," Salmen said. "And that, to me, is going to drive the future marketplace for financial planning advice."

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