Steven Briggs is the Chairperson and CEO of Briggs Financial Inc. Building the practice from the ground up, Steven opened Briggs Financial at the start of 2018 with the goal of providing prudent fiduciary advice to all people interested in improving their finances. Prior to opening Briggs Financial, Steven had over a decade of management and leadership experience in retail, education, and professional event management. Always a teacher at heart, Steven is the author of The Briggs Blog as well as our award-winning podcast series "Money is Personal." Steven has a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning as well as undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Music Education.
Shawn Block is an Associate Planner with two years of experience on the Briggs Financial team. Shawn joined the team in September of 2020 with a desire to make a significant career change from the entertainment industry into becoming a fiduciary financial planner. His energy and enthusiasm for empowering others is palpable, which combined with his ever-increasing knowledge of financial planning and taxation has made him a valuable member of our team. Shawn has completed half of the Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning degree with a straight 4.0 and possesses an undergrauate degree in Theatre from Cardinal Stritch University.
How does Briggs Financial Inc. develop its planners?
Our development program is a three-year runway that consists of a balance of both traditional book study as well as observation and applied practicum. With respect to book study, our first-year planners heavily study the Internal Revenue Code, because taxation rules affect virtually every aspect of financial planning; an expert understanding of taxation is critical to helping clients make correct decisions. During a planner's second and third years, we provide at no cost to the planner both the time and resources needed to complete a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning. This program is both rigorous and challenging, helping the planner build both broad ranged expertise in planning topics as well as depth of expertise by virtue of the length of study.
Apart from book study, our planners spend thousands of hours during their first three years both observing and being observed in client meetings, taking notes, discussing scenarios and situations, and learning from one another. This level of observation parallels industries such as education and psychology, which require thousands of hours of observation in order to receive licensure. We believe these professional practices serve our planners and clients well, so we have adopted them as well.
Why doesn't your team have Certified Financial Planners (CFP®)?
In short, because we don't believe that designation, or any designation, serves our clients or the community in any meaningful way.
The CFP® designation is one of 226 professional designations recognized by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). With so many different organizations pushing various acronyms, we believe it creates an alphabet soup that it makes more difficult, not easier, for people to ascertain our background and expertise. The Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning that our firm sponsors for all of its planners offers more than double the length of formal training compared to a CFP® curriculum, and is independently regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the strongest form of collegiate accreditatation. We believe the increased depth of training, combined with our firm's other efforts, develops a more competent and complete planner.
Furthermore, the CFP® Board has viewpoints with respect to what a fiduciary constitutes that we do not align with. According to their Code of Ethics, a CFP® professional is allowed to "disclose and manage conflicts of interest," even going so far as to allow an oral disclosure of conflict as sufficient. We believe that a fiduciary should actively seek out and avoid conflicts of interest, period. In our view there is no half-measure here; you are either on the same side of the table as the client, or you are compromised. We avoid lines of business that could put us in material conflict with our clients.
Finally, the CFP® Board has had significant challenges maintaining its so-called "gold standard." As late as 2019, over 5,000 CFP® desingation holders had faced formal complaints, with over 100 members having faced or currently facing felony charges. Meanwhile, this did not stop the CFP® Board from spending tens of millions of dollars annually on marketing their ethics and expertise as opposed to cleaning up their bad practices. These behaviors simply are unacceptable; our firm holds much higher standards of conduct.