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Financial Planning Education That Puts Humans First

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The landscape of financial planning is changing rapidly, thanks in large part to the rise of fintechs and digital financial products such as robo-advisors. In 2020, robo-advisors ballooned into a $460 billion industry,1 a figure that is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2024. This meteoric ascent has created a need for traditional financial planners to refine their service offerings and differentiate themselves from fintech products. 

It’s true, robo-advisors are good at a lot of things: powered by big data, they provide a convenient, frictionless experience that’s especially appealing to younger adults who are just starting to put down their financial roots. But time and time again, consumers have made it clear that they don’t just want this digitized experience. However powerful algorithmic financial planning tools may be, when it comes to the emotional dimension of finance, they’re no match for a good, old-fashioned person. Traditional planners alone can offer a holistic, empathetic understanding of a client’s unique financial situation—especially if they’re armed with knowledge of the human biases that often skew our financial decision-making.

A new paradigm for financial planning

That’s where FP Canada comes in. As Canada’s national professional body for establishing and enforcing financial planning standards, FP Canada is uniquely positioned to set the strategic direction for certified financial planners (CFPs). While more than 100,000 people in Canada claim to offer financial advice, only those who pass FP Canada’s certification exams can call themselves CFPs, enabling the organization to create positive change across the industry. They approached us with an ambitious vision: to completely rethink the way financial planners are educated and trained, centering behavioral science, humanistic design, and empathy. 

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Our work took place at the intersection of behavioral research and personal finance, bringing together cutting-edge insights from both fields. After engaging personal finance experts from across the country to help us map out the financial planning journey, we identified the behavioral and psychological roots of common hurdles that planners face and developed practical, evidence-based interventions to manage them. Since launching in 2019, our program has been empowering financial planners to engage in a more holistic, empathetic way with their clients.

Bridging the implementation gap 

As much as our curriculum draws from behavioral theory, the ultimate focus is on practice. In addition to helping planners understand why clients sometimes behave in seemingly irrational ways, the program provides practical, evidence-based strategies for incorporating this knowledge into their work, informed by the principles of user-centered design (UCD) and behavioral change frameworks such as COM-B and EAST. Sample scripts help trainees practice applying these interventions in real-world scenarios, so that when they start their careers as CFPs, they’ll be primed to approach their work from a holistic, behavior-focused perspective.

Designing for empathy

This program doesn’t only teach future planners how to better understand their clients’ decisions; it also provides them with introspective guidance on their own behaviors, to lay the foundation for more understanding, compassionate, and impactful financial planning. Consumers don’t just go to financial planners looking for a service; they’re after genuine human engagement, with a person who can see them as a unique and well-rounded individual. This is especially true for Millennials and younger adults, who have grown up in a volatile economy and who may be saddled with more fears and insecurities about money than previous generations. Our training helps planners put biases and preconceptions aside, so they can focus on the needs of the person in front of them.

By going beyond the bare essentials of financial planning, we’re helping planners carve out additional opportunities to create value for their clients, grounded in empathy and respect. Our science-backed curriculum now informs the education and practice of more than 17,000 financial professionals in Canada, collectively supporting the financial wellbeing of millions. In an age where consumers have come to expect both the hyper-personalized accuracy of digital financial products and the human touch of traditional planning services, this behavioral literacy will be key for professionals to set themselves apart from their computerized counterparts. 


Lee, N. (2021, April 12). Why robo-advisors are striving toward a “hybrid model,” as the industry passes the $460 billion mark. CNBC.

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