CPF is one of the best qualifications an adviser can have and many studying to become a Certified Financial Planner hold an RFP qualification in the meantime. Picture: 123RF/DMITRIY SHIRONOSOV
CPF is one of the best qualifications an adviser can have and many studying to become a Certified Financial Planner hold an RFP qualification in the meantime. Picture: 123RF/DMITRIY SHIRONOSOV

Introducing the professional designation ‘registered financial practitioner’ will go a long way towards clearing up existing confusion as well as protecting the phrases "financial planner" and "financial planning", says the Financial Planning Institute's (FPI) head of stakeholder engagement David Kop.

The SA Qualifications Authority (Saqa) recently approved the name change in the professional title RFP from registered financial planner to registered financial practitioner. 

There has been no change in the certification standards to hold an RFP designation: an NQF 5 qualification (a higher certificate), a professional competency exam and the signing of the FPI's code of ethics and professional responsibility.

When a member of the public engages with someone in the financial services industry, they are bound to encounter various professional designations, and according to Kop there has been some confusion in the public domain.

"There is already confusion in the consumer's mind with regard to various titles used in financial services," Kop said. "The retail distribution review (RDR) currently under way will hopefully assist with resolving some of this confusion."

The FPI is a professional body for financial planners in SA, and the only institution in the country to offer the CFP certification, an internationally recognised qualification for financial planners.

CPF is one of the best qualifications an adviser can have and many studying to become a certified financial planner hold an RFP qualification in the meantime.

Lelané Bezuidenhout, recently appointed CEO of the FPI, says that changing the second word to practitioner in the RPF designation will protect the terms "planner" and "planning", which require a higher bar in terms of certification.

Engaging a CFP means the person you are dealing with has a postgraduate diploma in financial planning and is required to adhere to a professional code of ethics and code of conduct.

"To make it clear that the level of qualification needed by a financial planner is on an NQF 8 level, we had to change the RFP designation from Registered Financial Planner to Registered Financial Practitioner as the underlying qualification needed by an RFP professional is on an NQF 5 level," she says.

While a certified financial planner (CFP) would require further studying and a higher qualification (NQF 8 is an Honours degree), Kop says the RPF designation is still meaningful.

"We believe that the RFP designation still holds value due to members being required to abide by the FPI code of ethics, which hold members to a higher standard than the suitability requirement in the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (Fais) Act," he told Money.

Check, check and double check

According to Kop, when deciding to work with a financial adviser, you should carry out two checks.

1. Check the FSCA website to ensure the person is registered and the category of advice they are authorised to provide.

2. Check the FPI's consumer site — www.letsplan.co.za — to confirm that your adviser is a member of a professional body and in addition to the regulatory requirements has met the professional standards and is bound by a professional code of ethics.