NEW YORK, April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) highlights the challenges 50 million Americans seniors face in selecting reputable financial services providers with meaningful credentials, and offers possible solutions to mitigate those challenges. Among its recommendations, the CFPB promotes third-party accreditation of credentialing organizations to help older consumers identify quality certifications and avoid financial advisers who might misuse credentials to sell inappropriate products. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), coordinator of the U.S. voluntary standardization system and a global leader in conformity assessment, supports the CFPB recommendations and offers a concrete solution via its third-party accreditation of personnel certification bodies.
Entitled "Senior Designations for Financial Advisers: Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks," the CFPB report states that there are more than 50 different "senior designation" credentials used by financial advisers to market their services to older Americans. Intended to indicate advanced expertise in the financial needs of older consumers, the array of names and acronyms associated with these various credentials can easily cause confusion – particularly to older consumers, who have unique vulnerabilities to fraud.
According to the report, third-party accreditation of certifications is an "accountability mechanism" that must be in place to ensure the quality and legitimacy of senior financial designations. ANSI's Personnel Certification Accreditation Program is a solution for providing that accountability, by verifying the quality and appropriateness of personnel credentialing programs.
Based on the international standard ISO/IEC 17024, Conformity Assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons, ANSI's program is the most comprehensive and in-depth personnel certification accreditation available in the United States. If a consumer sees the ANSI accreditation mark on a financial services provider's certificate, he or she can be assured that the adviser has the necessary knowledge and skills to make the credential meaningful. It would also mean the certification body has the ability to remove the certification, after due process, for any violations of a code of conduct or for being proven not have the necessary competencies as delineated by the credential.
Among other findings, the report noted that consumers have no clear means to distinguish among the many senior designations, and many similar sounding designations can have very different requirements. ANSI strongly supports the report's stated need for consumers to have access to information and verification "about the training, qualifications, education, and standards required for a given designation."
The CFPB's other recommendations for state and federal regulators include:
- Implementing rigorous criteria for acquiring senior designations, including specific standards for education, training, and accreditation.
- Setting strict standards of conduct for those using senior designations.
- Increasing existing supervision of and enforcement against misleading conduct by a holder of a senior designation.
The report was informed by a Request for Information (RFI) on senior financial exploitation that the CFPB issued in June 2012. ANSI was one of the agencies to respond to the RFI. The CFPB conducted extensive outreach to gather the perspectives of financial planners, insurance and securities professionals, consumer advocates, social workers, and other industry stakeholders.
"Accreditation by ANSI demonstrates quality credentialing by verifying a program's compliance to a rigorous internationally recognized accreditation process," said Dr. Roy Swift, senior director of personnel credentialing accreditation programs at ANSI. "ANSI commends the CFPB for this important report and the recommendations that will help older Americans safeguard their assets through the selection of appropriate financial services providers."
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. The Institute represents the diverse interests of more than 125,000 companies and organizations and 3.5 million professionals worldwide. ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and is a U.S. representative to the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).
The ANSI accreditation process is designed to increase the integrity, confidence, and mobility of certified professionals. Since the launch of ANSI's Personnel Certification Accreditation Program in 2003, the Institute has accredited 38 personnel certification bodies across a range of industry sectors involving more than 5 million workers.
About the CFPB
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. The CFPB's activities include restricting unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices; researching consumer behavior; monitoring financial markets for new risks to consumers; and enforcing laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance.
SOURCE American National Standards Institute