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How the CFP Board is courting the next generation of planners

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Amid growing worries that there are not enough new advisers to replace those who are retiring, the CFP Board's Center for Financial Planning is rolling out a host of new initiatives aimed at expanding and diversifying the workforce.

In the coming weeks, the center will launch an internship program aiming to place workforce re-entrants at planning firms, and a social media campaign geared for students highlighting the diversity of the profession.

The center is also moving ahead with an array of research projects, including efforts to help firms grapple with the emergence of robo advice platforms.

Endeavors to bring younger and more diverse talent into the field are central to the group's mission.

"We need to create pathways for young people to come into the profession and for firms to successfully onboard and train more young financial planners," says Marilyn Mohrman-Gillis, the center's executive director. "This is a marathon, not a sprint."

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The center is also looking expand and solidify financial planning as an academic discipline.

"Right now we have a dire shortage of faculty to teach in our programs, and we do not have enough programs across the country," says Mohrman-Gillis. At present, there about 50 programs in some stage of the CFP Board's approval process, she says.

Reaching students is a crucial part of the work at the center, which faces a daunting demographic challenge in trying to rejuvenate an aging workforce where there are more CFPs over 70 than there are under 30.

The center plans to launch what it hopes will be a viral social media campaign geared for high school and college students that will portray the profession as broad-based and inclusive, promoting short, "snackable" videos. The videos will offer different takes on "a day in the life of a CFP professional," emphasizing the possibility of a healthy "work-life balance," says Dan Drummond, director of communications at the CFP Board.

"What we're trying to do is put together a program of young, successful CFP professionals who are diverse," Drummond says. "The hope is that once the campaigns start, individuals will start sharing their experience through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and that they themselves will be part of the campaign."

The center is also looking to generate interest among people who had exited the workforce — say, to raise a family — but are now looking to restart their career.

"This is really targeting a market that we think is going to be a prime market for increasing gender diversity in the profession. A lot of professional re-enterers are women," Mohrman-Gillis says.

In coordination with iRelaunch, the center is lining up a handful of firms to set up internship programs. These programs are geared toward placing people re-entering the workforce in positions where they could work toward getting their CFP credential.

The CFP Board launched the Center for Financial Planning a little more than a year ago with three core objectives: developing the CFP workforce, promoting diversity in the profession, and building out an academic hub to support scholarly research and CFP higher-education programs.

The academic leg of the center’s work is designed to be a conduit between the scholarly work the center promotes and the planning firms that could put those ideas into action, Mohrman-Gillis says.

"We're not doing research to gather dust on the shelf. Our whole approach to the center is research to action to results," she says.

The center has also convened 21 executives from the financial and technology sectors to study the phenomenon of robo advice platforms, a cause of considerable angst in the industry. In December, the Digital Advice Working Group produced preliminary findings, imagining several scenarios that could unfold in the wealth management industry as robo platforms evolve and gain popularity.

One scenario anticipates a crisis of investor confidence that could follow a major cyberattack on a widely used robo platform, driving clients back toward human advisers.

In perhaps the darkest scenario, ominously labeled "Judgment Day," the task force imagines that "digital advice accelerates to the point of ubiquity, with some form of financial advice available for free to most consumers."

Mohrman-Gillis acknowledges that the robo phenomenon has stoked concerns that traditional business models could be displaced. Yet she also offers a hopeful message for worried advisers, stressing that even in the "Judgment Day" scenario (what she calls "an extreme future" that no one on the task force sees as imminent), human advisers will still have hugely important roles to play in areas like behavioral finance and client psychology.

"Even in that future, you had a role for a successful adviser who would be someone who is highly skilled and operating to bring financial planning — more complex, more integrated financial planning advice — to the clients. So even in that future it's not totally and completely automated," she says. "We think that there's going to be a huge emphasis on that sort of human value add-on."

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