Shaping the future of financial planning in South Africa

    The School of Financial Planning Law (SFPL) at the University of the Free State has long been a trailblazer in the field of financial planning. As Professor Liezel Alsemgeest, the School’s Director explains, high standards for teaching and research continue to keep SFPL at the forefront of the discipline in South Africa.

    Director Prof Liezel Alsemgeest
    Director Prof Liezel Alsemgeest
    Professor Liezel Alsemgeest is an associate professor at the University of the Free State and the Director of the School of Financial Planning Law (SFPL). As an NRF-rated researcher, her focus is on communication in personal finance and financial behaviour – areas crucial for navigating the complexities of financial planning. She is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and also the Programme Director for Specialised Postgraduate Diplomas at the SFPL.

    Provide a historic overview of financial planning in South Africa and how the School of Financial Planning Law at the UFS contributed.

    Financial planning in South Africa has come a long way to now being regarded as a well-established profession. Prior to the 1980s, financial advice was often disjointed, with product sales a primary focus. The Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa (FPI), established in 1981, played a pivotal role in changing this landscape. By advocating for ethical standards and professional education, the FPI helped build trust and credibility. The University of the Free State (UFS) played a key part in this transformation through its School of Financial Planning Law. Founded in 2001, the School offered South Africa’s first (and for a long time the only) Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning, which is an accredited qualification needed to obtain the coveted Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. This programme, aligned with international standards, equips financial advisors with the knowledge and skills to provide holistic financial planning services. The UFS’s contribution wasn’t limited to academics. By producing graduates who prioritise client needs, the School helps to shape a new generation of ethical and competent financial planners, ultimately benefiting the financial well-being of South Africans.

    Explain in more detail the importance of the CFP® designation and the role of the SFPL.

    Earning the CFP® designation signifies a rigorous educational journey. Programmes delve deep into various financial planning areas, from risk management and retirement planning to tax strategies and estate planning. This comprehensive knowledge base ensures that CFP® professionals have the tools to tackle even the most intricate financial situations. Financial guidance is only as valuable as the trust behind it. CFP® professionals adhere to a strict code of ethics established by the FPI. The financial world is constantly evolving and CFP® professionals stay ahead of the curve through continuous professional development. As the biggest educational provider in South Africa, the SFPL plays a critical part in upholding high ethical standards.

    Are your programmes suitable for employed individuals?

    The SFPL’s distance-learning programmes were developed specifically to cater to working professionals. The flexible format allows a student to study around job demands and family life. Having access to course materials online enables students to study whenever it best suits their schedule. Additionally, the SFPL programmes offer a personalised learning approach which ensures the student receives the guidance they need to excel. Assessments are conducted online, so a student can be anywhere in the world and complete the qualification.

    What are the most popular courses overall? Has there been any shift in recent years?

    The Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning is the flagship programme and takes centre stage with the highest volume of students every year. This comprehensive programme equips aspiring financial advisors with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the complex world of financial planning. Structured around the CFP® curriculum, it delves into areas like risk management, retirement planning, tax optimisation and estate planning and will soon include behavioural finance. The SFPL also offers specialised postgraduate diplomas in Estate Planning and Investment Planning. These programmes cater to individuals seeking in-depth knowledge in specific financial areas. On the undergraduate level, the Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is experiencing a surge in popularity as it equips individuals with the expertise to handle complex fiduciary matters.

    At what NQF level are the various courses?

    The Postgraduate Diplomas in Financial Planning, Estate Planning and Investment Planning are all on NQF level 8. The Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is an undergraduate qualification on NQF level 7.

    Do you have some students who are already financial planners and are looking to add to their qualifications in specific areas?

    The SFPL understands the needs of working professionals in the financial industry. With approximately 99% of our students employed, our programmes are specifically designed for distance learning. This ensures that students can gain valuable financial planning expertise without compromising their current work schedule or family commitments.

    The SFPL offers not just accredited qualifications but also assists students in focused professional development. Alongside our acclaimed postgraduate diplomas, the SFPL offers industry-relevant short courses designed to enhance a student’s existing skillset.

    Whether someone is looking to delve into the world of financial coaching or gain expertise in employee benefits, the SFPL’s short courses provide individuals with the knowledge and practical skills needed to excel. These focused programmes are perfect for busy professionals, complementing their current qualifications and allowing them to specialise.

    The flexible nature of these short courses, delivered online, ensures minimal disruption to work schedules. This makes them ideal for continuous learning and keeping expertise at the forefront of the ever-evolving financial landscape.

    The Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is accredited by two organisations. Tell us more about it.

    The Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is offered by the SFPL, the only institution in South Africa that is accredited with two well-respected organisations:

    The Fiduciary Institute of Southern Africa (FISA): 

    This is a non-profit organisation that focuses on fiduciary practitioners such as estate planners and trust administrators. FISA sets standards for the profession, provides education for consumers and offers continuing professional development for its members. This accreditation signifies that the programme meets the educational requirements for achieving the prestigious FPSA® (Fiduciary Practitioner of South Africa) designation.

    Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP): 

    STEP is a global professional association dedicated to upholding high standards in the trust and estate management profession. It focuses on educating and maintaining rigorous professional qualifications for members. The Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is the only qualification in South Africa that is considered sufficient as the education portion to become a STEP member. The SFPL is very proud of this achievement to be the only education provider in South Africa. TEPs are recognised internationally as experts in estate and trust administration. This designation grants access to a global network of over 20 000 professionals.

    What are notable achievements by the SFPL in the last couple of years?

    The SFPL has a track record of excellence, boasting several notable achievements in recent years:

    • Top performers: SFPL alumni consistently rank among the top five achievers in the FPI Board exam, year after year. This impressive record demonstrates the effectiveness of the SFPL’s curriculum in preparing students for success.
    • Award-winning professionals: For several years running, SFPL graduates have claimed the prestigious FPI Financial Planner of the Year award. This recognition highlights the exceptional skills and ethical practices instilled in SFPL alumni, solidifying their reputation as leaders in the field.
    • National recognition: The Advanced Diploma in Estate and Trust Administration is the only qualification that FISA recognises as the academic requirement for attaining the FPSA® designation.
    • International recognition: The SFPL offers the only accredited qualification in South Africa that allows graduates to become international STEP members. This unique qualification positions SFPL graduates for success in international estate planning.
    • Pioneering research: SFPL academics are at the forefront of financial planning research. Their groundbreaking publication, Perspectives in Financial Therapy, is the first of its kind in South Africa, exploring the intersection of financial planning and emotional well-being and demonstrating the School’s commitment to a holistic approach to financial guidance.

    These achievements showcase the SFPL’s dedication to excellence in financial planning education. By producing top-performing graduates, award-winning professionals and contributing to groundbreaking research, the SFPL continues to shape the future of financial planning in South Africa. 

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