Conceptions of the professionalism of financial planners
thesisposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Kenneth BruceKenneth Bruce
This study investigates how Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professionals experience professionalism. The study was carried out to provide insight for the international financial planning community, including the Financial Planning Standards Board and the CFP Board of Standards in establishing internationally relevant, accurate and meaningful professional standards for financial planners. This is a qualitative study following the phenomenographic research tradition which aims to describe the qualitatively different ways in which people understand or experience a phenomenon. This study is unique for two reasons; firstly as a study undertaken independently of the financial planning standard setting bodies seeking to understand more about the professionalism of financial planners; and secondly as a study that takes a second order perspective where the researcher attempted to see the world through the eyes of CFP® professionals who experience the phenomenon of professionalism. The utterances of CFP® professionals from Australia, Hong Kong and America have been analysed to produce categories of description comprising ‘what’ aspects and ‘how’ aspects of the phenomenon of professionalism. The ‘what’ aspect is comprised of participant understandings of what professionalism means to them, and the ‘how’ aspect comprises conceptualised acts that explain how participants think about acting professionally. The relationship of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ categories form a conceptual map that for the purpose of this study have been presented as an outcome space. The research findings have produced a high degree of similarity and correlation between how CFP® professionals in each of the three countries experience professionalism. The different labels and descriptions given to the conceptions reflect differences which can be explained largely by country-specific cultural, regulatory and practice differences. A common conception among CFP® professionals from the three countries relates to putting client’s interests first. In Australia, CFP® professionals’ awareness of professionalism is affected as much by Government regulation as it is by CFP® certification requirements. In Hong Kong, CFP® professionals have to reconcile and manage employers’ expectations of selling financial products with the professional standards of being a CFP® professional. In the United States, CFP® professionals have a more holistic and altruistic experience of professionalism. A full and open account of the research study, member checking and presentation of the research findings in peer-reviewed conference proceedings were used as methods to validate and test the reliability of the results. The significance of this study is that it gives voice to financial planners who hold the professional designation – Certified Financial Planner. This will enable relevant standard setting bodies to understand professionalism through the eyes of CFP® professionals. The findings have the potential to contribute to work being undertaken by the Financial Planning Standards Board and its affiliate member organisations representing 24 countries and regions around the world including Australia and Hong Kong. The findings may also assist the CFP Board of Standards and the Financial Planning Association in the United States to shape the profession of financial planning. Regulators in each of the three countries potentially benefit by understanding that financial planning professional bodies make significant contribution to the professionalism of their members by building on standards set by regulation. This study also contributes to the literature on the application of phenomenography as a qualitative approach in understanding how people experience phenomena.