Celebrating 30 years of the CFP® designation

09 December 2020

Celebrating 30 years of the CFP® designation in Australia

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

In 2020, we’ve reached the 30 year anniversary for introducing the internationally recognised CFP® designation to Australia. This important milestone for professional standards in financial planning creates an opportunity for our community to reflect on the importance of this education and experience pathway at this time.  

Studying to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional is a commitment to attaining the highest, internationally recognised standard in financial planning. While this opportunity to take their certification to the next level has been available to Australian financial planners since 1990, it’s just as important today as a mark of excellence and professionalism in financial advice.  

The CFP® designation – a brief history

Nearly 50 years ago, in 1973, 40 financial planners in the US were the first to receive the CFP® mark. But it took another 17 years for this standard of excellence to travel to our shores.

One of our greatest and most visionary leaders in financial planning, Gwen Fletcher, played a critical role in bringing the CFP® designation to Australia. She was also instrumental in establishing the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP) here in Australia in 1985. As a founding member of the IAFP, she went on to serve as the first national treasurer and later became national secretary, national president and finally, chair.

It was in 1990 that Gwen signed the agreement to secure the CFP® designation as an education standard here in Australia, making our country the first country to offer this opportunity to financial planners outside of the US. She then went on to oversee the merger of the IAFP and the Australian Society of Investment and Financial Advisers (ASIFA) to form the Financial Planning Association (FPA) in 1992.

Even before the international CFP designation was confirmed in 1990, graduates of the Diploma of Financial Planning (6 Units), introduced in 1988, were eligible to apply for status as CERTIFIED FINANICIAL PLANNER professional of Australia. Even then, the diploma education requirements were considerably higher than legal standards required for planners at the time. But in order to attain the CFP® mark, graduates needed to demonstrate experience, ethics and continuing professional development.

Excellence in education and practice

The CFP® certification study pathway and requirements have continually evolved and advanced to keep pace with regulatory and education standards. Since July 1999, new CFP® candidates were required to study a postgraduate education program, in addition to the diploma program. And in 2007 a relevant degree requirement was introduced with CFP® certification candidates expected to complete undergraduate studies before gaining their certification.

With undergraduate degrees now mandatory for financial planning professionals under the new FASEA education requirements, all practising financial planners will be degree-qualified by January 2024. This means that the value and benefits of CFP® certification for financial planners and their clients remains strong as it provides an important opportunity to differentiate and stand out as a financial planner who goes above and beyond the minimum requirements.

“CFP® certification means more than just education. It revolves around meeting the four E’s of professionalism and requires a CFP® professional to re-certify their credentials annually in order to keep their certification,” says FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP®. “The four E’s of professionalism include Education, Ethics, Experience and Examination. Crucially, each of the four E’s are required to be maintained through Continuing Professional Development and being subject to the international Code of Ethics and Standards, which are set by the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) Limited. You not only need to qualify to obtain CFP® certification but you need to maintain it – a key difference between holding a professional designation versus meeting minimum legal training standards.”

A head start towards meeting education requirements

With several universities now offering programs that combine CFP® certification with a Masters qualification, both CFP® certified professionals and students looking to meet FASEA education standards, have an opportunity to follow a learning model that delivers the best in value, as well as improved outcomes for their career.

“As all future planners will now need to complete either undergraduate or postgraduate studies, the combination of a higher level postgraduate qualification with a CFP® designation will be the best way to take their credentials to the next level,” says Anne Palmer, FPA Head of Student and University Engagement. “Those who want to stand out from the crowd with additional qualifications at a Masters level and a designation can now complete the study for both at the same time.

“According to the ABS 45% of undergraduates now go on to complete postgraduate qualifications. This initiative helps busy financial planners who wish to differentiate themselves now that basic tertiary education requirements have been specified by FASEA. This integrated program is a win-win for planners who want to get ahead, as it reduces the study load and costs of achieving a Masters and a CFP® designation.”

Deakin, Swinburne, RMIT and Kaplan are institutions currently offering an integrated CFP®/Masters program. Please contact the FPA Education Team to find out more.

The opportunities in becoming a CFP®

In addition to reaching the peak for their profession, research from the FPA shows there are substantial commercial opportunities for financial planners who complete their CFP designation:

  • More and more Australians actively seek a CFP® professional – it is the number one choice for consumers when seeking a financial planner compared to other designations/qualifications.
  • Nine in 10 Australian consumers trust a CFP® professional to deliver reliable and valuable advice when compared to other professionals.
  • People who work with a CFP® professional report feeling more confident in achieving their financial goals.
  • Employers and recruiters recognise the CFP® designation as the most desired in financial planning. 

2020 has seen many Australians plunged into financial uncertainty. In spite of restrictions being relaxed in many Australia states and territories in December, the global outlook for the COVID-19 pandemic is far more unstable and concerning. Who knows how we’ll be living, working and earning in 2021? This means trusted, expert financial advice is becoming even more important for everyday Australians.

“Right now, today, Australians deserve access to trusted and transparent advice, and need to know who they can trust during this time of change,” says Dante. “The CFP® mark is a simple, internationally recognisable symbol for the higher standards consumers deserve. The CFP® designation has never been more relevant and will continue to set you apart in standing with Australians for a better financial future.”

To find out more about the pathways to becoming a CFP and the benefits for financial planners in achieving their designation, visit