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  • Financial Professionals

Jan 16 2009 12:00AM


Are there any resources to check on a planner's record, and if the planner has had any previous complaints?


The short answer is yes, though you may need to go to several Web sites to get a complete picture, according to FPA member Edward W. Gjertsen II, CFP®, vice president of Mack Investment Securities, Inc.

If the adviser is a registered representative (e.g., licensed to sells stocks, bonds and mutual funds) you can look up their regulatory history on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's  (FINRA) Web site.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) maintains a Web site that allows you to search for information about Investment Adviser (IA) firms regulated by, and electronically registered with, the SEC or state regulators. The SEC regulates IA firms with more than $25 million in assets under management (and certain other IA firms that meet other statutory criteria). IA firms regulated by the SEC must submit their required registration forms (Form ADV) to the SEC via the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD®). Some state-regulated IA firms also submit their registration forms (also on Form ADV) through the IARD. Of note, the SEC does not keep records on individuals, just firms.  Learn more on the SEC Web site.  In addition, you can find information about a state-regulated IA firm on the North American Securities Administrators Association Web site.
If the adviser is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) practitioner, you can look up their history on the CFP Board Web site by using the adviser's last name and state of practice. You can also visit FINRA's Web site to learn more about other designations that an adviser may hold.

Another suggestion would be to contact your state's Better Business Bureau to see if they are a member in good standing or if complaints have been filed.
For his part, FPA member William J. Taylor CFP®, vice president and senior trust officer at F & M Bank, suggests that you use some of the tools and resources on the FPA Web site when looking for a planner. Under the "Find A Planner" tab, for instance, is a link that is titled "Hiring a Financial Planner." That link has sections that answer questions such as:

  • What information should I ask for?
  • Why is full disclosure vital as I pick a planner?
  • How do financial planners charge?
  • How do I start looking for a planner?

These pages provide places to contact and confirm that a planner you are considering has not received complaints or is under any cloud of investigation. By the way, that same link, "Hiring a Financial Planner," has some excellent interview questions as well. Consider using some or all of them as you seek to hire a financial planner.
Also, Taylor suggests that you look at the "What is a CFP® Professional?"  on this site to better understand the exposure a CFP professional has to ethics training and the level of fiduciary duty CFP professionals bring to a financial planning client relationship.

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