CFP® Certification: The Highest Standard

Most people think all financial planners are “certified,” but this isn’t true. Anyone can use the title “financial planner.” Only those who have fulfilled the certification and renewal requirements of CFP Board can display the CFP® certification trademarks which represent a high level of competency, ethics and professionalism. And because they are held to a fiduciary standard of care, a CFP® professional is required to act in your best interest.


Unlike many financial advisors, CFP® professionals must develop their theoretical and practical knowledge by completing a comprehensive course of study at a college or university offering a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. Applicants may also satisfy the education requirement by submitting a transcript review or previous financial planning-related course work. Or, they can show that they have attained certain professional designations or academic degrees that cover the important subjects in CFP Board’s financial planning curriculum.



CFP® professionals must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Exam, which tests their abilities to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. The exam covers the financial planning process, tax planning, employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, investment management and insurance. This comprehensive exam helps ensure that a CFP® professional is highly qualified to develop a plan for your finances.


CFP® professionals must have a minimum of three years experience in the financial planning process prior to earning the right to use the CFP® certification marks. This hands-on experience guarantees that CFP® professionals have practical financial planning knowledge, so you can count on them to help you create a realistic financial plan that fits your individual needs.


When it comes to ethics and professional responsibility, CFP® professionals are held to the highest of standards, as outlined in CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct. They are obliged to uphold the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence as outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics. The Rules of Conduct require CFP® professionals to put clients interests ahead of their own at all times and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary”—acting in the best interest of their financial planning clients. CFP® professionals are subject to CFP Board sanctions if they violate these standards.


CFP Board's rigorous enforcement of its Standards of Professional Conduct — including releasing disciplinary information to the public — distinguishes the CFP® certification from the many other designations in the financial services industry. Anyone who seeks CFP® certification is subject to a background check, and those whose past conduct falls short of CFP Board's ethical and practice standards can be barred from becoming certified. After attaining certification, a CFP® professional who violates CFP Board's ethical and practice standards becomes subject to disciplinary action, which could include the permanent revocation of certification. Through diligent enforcement of its ethical and practice standards, CFP Board provides you with the confidence that your CFP® professional is both competent and ethical.

How Ethics and Enforcement helps you:

The commitment CFP® professionals make to upholding CFP Board's Standards of Professional Conduct, along with CFP Board's active enforcement of those Standards, provide you an understanding of the high level of ethical and competent service to expect when working with a CFP® professional. Knowing what to expect from a financial planning relationship puts you in the driver’s seat — which is exactly where you belong. To get the most out of your experience with a financial planner, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the qualities of a true professional.

Sources: Why CFP Certification MattersEthics Enforcement

View Thomas Curtis' CFP certification here: Find a CFP Professional


Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF)

A Fiduciary is simply defined as “a trustee”; but it is more broadly defined as “A person legally appointed and authorized to hold assets in trust for another person. The fiduciary manages the assets for the benefit of the other person rather than for his or her own profit.”

The AIF professional designation demonstrates knowledge and competency in the area of fiduciary responsibility. This designation represents a thorough knowledge of and ability to apply the fiduciary practices. Through a rigorous training program, provided by fi360, designees learn the Practices and the legal and best practice framework they are built upon. Designees have a reputation in the industry for the ability to implement a prudent process into their own investment practices as well as being able to assist others in implementing proper policies and procedures.

AIF Code of Ethics

To my clients, I will:

1.  Employ and provide the client information on the Prudent Practices when serving as an investment fiduciary and/or advising other investment fiduciaries.

2.  Act with honesty and integrity and avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

3.  Ensure the timely and understandable disclosure of relevant information that is accurate, complete, and objective.

4.  Be responsible when determining the value of my services and my form of compensation; taking into consideration the time, skill, experience, and special circumstances involved in providing my services.

5.  Know the limits of my expertise, and refer my clients to colleagues and/or other professionals in connection with issues beyond my knowledge and skills.

6.  Respect the confidentiality of information acquired in the course of my work, and not disclose such information to others, except when authorized or otherwise legally obligated to do so. I will not use confidential information acquired in the course of my work for my personal advantage.

7.  Not exploit any relationship or responsibility that has been entrusted to m

To my community (whether defined by work, family and/or friends), I will:

1.  Proactively promote and be a steward of ethical behavior as a responsible partner among my peers in the work environment and in my community.

2.  Ensure that the overall promotion of my practice is implemented in the best interests of my profession.

3.  Seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work; acknowledge and correct errors; and properly credit the contributions of others.

4.  Use corporate assets and resources employed or entrusted to me in a responsible manner.

5.  Continue to improve my knowledge and skill, share ideas and information with colleagues and assist them in their professional development.

Sources: AIF Designation

View Our AIF designations here:  AIF Designee Search