Financial planner caught pretending to be CFP-qualified

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 August, 2009, 12:00am

Stephen Gollop, a high-profile financial adviser in Hong Kong, has been reprimanded by an industry body for using the prestigious 'Certified Financial Planner' title after his name without having gained the qualification.

Mr Gollop, the chief executive of Tyche Group, who regularly gives investment advice on Bloomberg, CNBC and RTHK, has used 'CFP' after his name in client communications and publicity for at least three years, according to his media appearances and a collection of his e-mails reviewed by this newspaper.

The Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong found Mr Gollop did not have the CFP, which is the most internationally recognised advanced financial-planning certificate, following a tip-off from a member of the public. The trade body has ordered him to stop using the title, its chief executive, Angeline Chin, confirmed.

The CFP is the most difficult vocational qualification financial advisers can take in Hong Kong.

Mr Gollop declined to comment.

Tyche Group advises retail investors, managing about US$40 million of clients' money.

Financial advisers to the Hong Kong public do not need any formal qualifications, so Mr Gollop has not flouted any regulations.

But Ms Chin said the CFP was a registered trademark and only people who passed the exam could use it.

'The CFP certification is the most prestigious and globally recognised and people in Hong Kong should not use the letters after their name if they have not been certified by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong,' she said.

Mr Gollop appeared on Bloomberg Television in May, discussing how to choose a financial adviser. During the programme, he said: 'The CFP is specific to financial planning so that is what you want to be looking for [in your adviser].'

In 2006, he wrote articles in this newspaper using the letters CFP after his name.

Sidney Sze, founding chairman of another Hong Kong financial advisers' trade body, the Independent Financial Advisers Association, said it was worryingly common for financial advisers in Hong Kong to misstate their qualifications.

'A lot of advisers put 'CFP' on their cards without having the qualification it suggests,' he said. 'If you ask, some will say it stands for 'China Financial Planner'.'

Ms Chin urged Hong Kong savers to thoroughly check their money manager's credentials by asking them to show proof of any educational attainments listed on their business cards.

Her institute oversees the Certified Financial Planner qualification process in Hong Kong and lists qualified advisers' names on its website.

Mr Gollop is not unqualified. He passed a British vocational exam in 1992, the Advanced Financial Planning Certificate (AFPC), a spokesman for the trade body which oversees that qualification, the Chartered Insurance Institute, said.

But the CFP is more advanced than the AFPC, whose name has since been changed to the Diploma of the Personal Finance Society (Dip PFS). Britain's Qualification and Credit Framework, which grades vocational qualifications, awards the Dip PFS a level-four designation, while the CFP is level six, the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.

Mr Gollop cannot currently use the Dip PFS title because he has not renewed his membership of the Chartered Insurance Institute, the spokesman said.

Mr Gollop did not respond to requests for evidence of other qualifications he may have.