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News Release

Awareness of CFP® Certification Leaps Ahead

May 18, 2015
New study shows more consumers have positive views of CFP® certification and insist financial planners have the nation’s leading financial planning certification

Awareness of the Certified Financial PlannerTM certification continues to leap forward, with consumers saying they insist their financial planner have the CFP® certification, according to the global independent market research firm Ipsos. The annual
brand tracking study was commissioned on behalf of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. as part of its integrated Public Awareness Campaign.

“CFP® certification is the must-have certification for those seeking and providing financial advice. It is clear that Americans are paying attention to what goes behind the letters after someone’s name – and CFP® certification represents the highest standard in financial advice,” said Kevin R. Keller, CAE, CFP Board’s Chief Executive Officer.

Overall Awareness

Now in its fifth year, the Public Awareness Campaign has doubled unaided awareness of CFP® certification amongst the campaign’s target audience – known as “mass affluent initiators” – since the start of the campaign.
In April 2011, this number was at 17 percent – in 2015, Ipsos reports it stands at 34 percent, a 4 percentage point increase from 2014. And, for the first time, consumers are as likely to mention CFP® certification as CPA when asked to name a professional who offers personal financial planning services.

Unaided awareness measures a person’s knowledge about certifications and designations without prompting. The “mass affluent initiator” (MAI) is defined as a subset of the mass affluent (those with investible assets of $100,000 to $1 million) who have a mindset that makes them more likely to seek out the services of a financial professional.

This year’s study also showed
total brand awareness among the MAI target audience jumped by 6 percentage points from 79 to 85 percent. This reflects the cumulative impact of the campaign is having through paid advertising, social media, its digital presence through and press coverage of CFP® certification. Total brand awareness is up 10 percentage points (75 to 85 percent) since the start of the campaign in 2011.

While increased awareness remains the focus of the campaign, as a byproduct, there have been increases in preference for and intent to use a CFP® professional. For instance,
52 percent said they had a preference for the certification, up 5 points since last year and a 30 percentage point increase since 2011; while 52 percent of the target audience also said they would intend to use someone who had the certification – up 6 points since 2014 or a 22 percentage point increase since 2011.

Importance of Certifications

As before, the study shows CFP® certification is the best known financial planning certification in the marketplace. Based on
total brand awareness among the MAI target audience, CFP® certification at 85 percent is more than twice as well-known as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) at 35 percent and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation (33 percent), more than three times as well-known as the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) designation (25 percent), and four times as well-known as the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation (18 percent).  In comparison to the more than 170 financial services designations in the marketplace, only the CPA designation registered higher – and only by nine percentage points at 94 percent.

This year, the study also looked at what designations and certifications consumers expected their financial planner to have.
More than 69 percent of the target MAI audience said they would insist their financial planner have the CFP® certification. By comparison, only 49 percent would require them to have a CPA; 34 percent requiring a CFA and 31 percent requiring a CPA-PFS.

Impact of Paid Advertising

The Public Awareness Campaign is an integrated communications campaign featuring paid radio, television, print, digital (including and social media advertising. Combined with a robust earned media effort featuring CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP® and 50 CFP Board Ambassadors, the campaign is in response to CFP® professionals’ desire for greater awareness of the certification they have worked so hard to achieve.

Like last year, the creative for the campaign stresses that CFP® certification is the highest standard in financial advice. As shown in this
television ad, just about anyone can call themselves a financial planner, but only those individuals who meet the rigorous requirements of CFP® certification – the highest standard in financial planning – can call themselves a CFP® professional. This year there are new digital and print ads as well, encouraging consumers to visit to learn more about the benefits of financial planning and how to find a CFP® professional in their area.  

The advertising runs twice a year – in the spring to coincide with tax season and in the fall to coincide with end of year planning. Digital, social media and print advertising appear continuously throughout the year. Television ads can be seen on such channels as Fox, CNN, Golf, ESPN, NBC Sports and HGTV. Radio advertising and sponsorships can be heard on National Public Radio and popular ESPN programming such as
Mike & Mike.

As part of the campaign, CFP® professionals have access to the
advertising and other tools to extend the reach of the campaign in their own marketing efforts. More information about the Public Awareness Campaign and research results can be found here.


The mission of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is to benefit the public by granting the CFP® certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning. The Board of Directors, in furthering CFP Board's mission, acts on behalf of the public, CFP® professionals and other stakeholders. CFP Board owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™,
CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.  CFP Board currently authorizes more than 71,000 individuals to use these marks in the U.S.


Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry.

With offices in 87 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media, customer loyalty, marketing, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,669.5 ($2,218.4 million) in 2014.


Each year since the Public Awareness Campaign began, CFP Board has commissioned Ipsos to conduct an independent brand tracking study. The same methodology has been used since the first study. The online survey was completed by 602 Mass Affluent individuals, 180 of which fit the Mass Affluent Initiators profile. This year’s research was conducted between April 13 and April 26, 2015.