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 from Central Michigan University.
Shawn Block is an Financial Planner with three years of experience on the Briggs Financial team. 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 a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning as well as an undergraduate degree in Theatre from Cardinal Stritch University.
How does Briggs Financial Inc. develop its planners different than other firms?
When most firms talk about training, they are talking about teaching sales tactics. Fact is, most firms spend little or no time actually teaching their employees how to be effective financial advisors. They teach them how to sell products, and maybe the advisor goes and gets a cute endorsement to appear as they though they know things, when at the end of the day all they've done is is put lipstick on a pig. Pigs do not make effective financial planners, so we approach developing our team members from a completely different standpoint - building real skills and experience to help you do better.
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 you 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 best serve both our planners and you.
Why doesn't your team have Certified Financial Planners (CFP®)?
In short, because we don't believe that designation, or any designation, serves you better 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 you 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; we are either on the same side of the table as you, or we 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® designation 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.