David R. Evanson
The Career Advisor, Fall, 2004
Suppose for a moment that Rip van Winkle was a financial planner and he went to sleep in 1990. “If he woke up today,” says Mark Goldberg, president and chief executive officer of Royal Alliances Associates, Inc., a New York-based broker-dealer with 2,500 reps nationwide, “I don’t think he could possibly cope with everything that’s changed, including, e-mail, discount brokerage, ETFs, A, B and C shares, separate accounts, on-line financial planning tools, fee-based models, and on and on and on.”
Goldberg uses the example to illustrate the point that, from day to day, you don’t recognize the power of education, but given the pace of change, if you don’t engage in professional education and development, within three years, “You will be so far behind the eight ball you will be irrelevant.”
Despite this, education and training doesn’t always rank high on a financial planner’s list of priorities. According to Greg Titus, president of financial training organization Acadeint (www.acadient.com), “The mentality of a lot of people is they know it will help them long term, but it will not make them money today, so they postpone training.” Perhaps just as influential in the decision to avoid training is the inconvenience and the exorbitant amount of time required.
But online training is becoming increasingly more viable, available and robust, opening up educational opportunities for planners. “The technology today is not new per se,” says Titus, “but it is new in that it is now being deployed for educational purposes.”
For instance, Boston University, which has been providing education and courses for the CFP designation for more than 20 years, just began offering its content over the Internet about a year and a half ago, according to the program’s director, Bob Glovsky.
Titus says that today information is communicated via video, audio, audio/video, text, and with interactive exercises. It’s not just static text. And because the content is accessible not simply on-line through a dedicated feed, but over the Internet, it can be accessed anytime and anywhere.
Of course, the big appeal here is that financial planners can learn at their own pace, when it’s convenient for them. The real savings however are related to a financial planner’s most precious commodity: time. Titus says there are 89 class modules required for the CFP designation. By attending online, planners can avoid the investment of time required getting to class, parking and getting back home again. “There can be a real cost associated with the coming and going, in addition to the frustration associated with being away from home and family.”
And it’s not just professional designations where online training can make a difference.
According to Royal Alliance’s Goldberg, there have been 75 new rules issued by regulatory bodies over the past 24 months. “That means we are required to implement a new rule every 6.6 days when it’s averaged out.” He says online training related to these rules is one of the most effective means of dissemination. “Ten years ago, all of our training was done via classroom,” he says. “Today more than half is done online.”
Despite this growth, Goldberg says that online education will not work for everyone, and that it will never equal the quality of a live classroom experience. “The fact is that people have a natural resistance to change. A live classroom experience enables a teacher to pierce that resistance, and provide that persuasive element which can be critical to learning.”
Regarding the ideal candidates for online education, Boston University’s Glovsky says, “You need to be honest with yourself. A lot of people should admit to themselves that they need the structure and deadlines that a classroom provides to do their best work.
The most successful on line students are self starters, disciplined, and the kind of person who budgets their time very carefully.”
Here are some Web sites which provide access to on-line training and professional certification courses.
www.cfpboard.org (Click on “Become a CFP, then click on Education Programs to see a list of on line offerings.)