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How to Become a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist (CMPS)

By Mark Cussen

meeting with a cmpsThe subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 has made it harder than ever for many loan officers to make a living. Although the elimination of the entire subprime market has been partially offset by the drop in interest rates, the level of compensation for many originators has dropped substantially from what it was a few years ago.

Loan officers have therefore had to think up new ways to service their customers and still make a profit. One option they may want to consider is to become a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist (CMPS).

What Is a Certified Mortgage Planning Specialist?

cmps institute logoThis credential is offered by the CMPS Institute located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A group of mortgage lending specialists and financial planners banded together to create this designation in an effort to educate mortgage originators on the impact that home loans have on the rest of a client’s financial situation.

While financial planners typically have a relatively solid understanding of mortgages and how they work in the context of a client’s finances, the average loan originator is typically trained only in the mechanics of home loans in and of themselves, and is often clueless about how a home loan fits into the rest of a client’s financial situation. A CMPS is therefore trained to be able to bridge this gap and offer an advanced level of service and analysis to prospects and clients seeking home loans.

Curriculum

The educational element of the CMPS designation consists of 15 hours of undergraduate level coursework. Mastery of these topics provides the designee with a solid understanding of how a home loan fits in with the other elements of a client’s financial plan.

The five main areas of study are:

  • Analysis of interest rates and the financial markets
  • Analysis of debts and cash flows
  • Planning and analysis of real estate development
  • Taxation of mortgages and real estate
  • Compliance and ethical issues

Upon completion of the coursework, students must pass a final exam consisting of 100 multiple choice questions. They must score at least an 80% on this test to receive a passing grade. Once the test has been passed, the certification is awarded to the student.

Code of Ethics

CMPS designees are also required to adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. The CMPS Institute requires that all certificants adhere to the following precepts:

  • Conflict of Interest. Unconditional disclosure must be made of any and all possible conflicts of interest with the client’s best interests.
  • Disclosure of Compensation. The CMPS must admit any additional rewards or compensation received for the provision of additional products or services, such as insurance and investment products. All compensation that is paid to the designee must also be clearly shown to the client.
  • Confidentiality. All client information must be kept strictly confidential.
  • Honesty. Any type of exaggeration, falsification, or other type of misinformation is strictly prohibited.
  • Due Diligence. Designees must make the utmost effort to provide clients with the best possible products and service at all times.
  • Appraisers. Designees cannot structure what they pay an appraiser according to the amount of the property appraisal.
  • Scope of Duties Performed. Designees cannot perform tasks for which they are not trained or licensed, such as law, tax advice, or investment management.
  • Nondiscrimination. Designees cannot discriminate against clients on the basis of age, race, sex, religion, nationality, political views, or other such personal characteristics in any way.
  • Objectivity. Designees are required to provide objective advice to clients, even if it is to the financial detriment of the designee.
  • Professionalism. Designees are prohibited from making false accusations against other designees, competitors, or the CMPS board or institute.
  • Referrals. Designees cannot either compensate others for referrals received or receive compensation for referrals made to other business partners.

Failure to adhere to this code can result in disciplinary action for the designee.

Additional Requirements

Candidates who pass the exam must pay an initial fee of $700 to receive the designation (this includes all of the initial coursework and exams), and the cost of keeping the mark is $700 per year thereafter. Those who do so must also complete at least four hours of continuing education (CE) each year and then pass a corresponding exam in order to maintain a current base of knowledge in the industry. This is in addition to any CE requirements mandated by the state to keep their mortgage licensure active.

However, the annual renewal fee covers both the cost of the additional CE, and also provides eight hours of approved CE for designees via the CMPS website. The list of requirements to earn the CMPS designation are also less rigorous than for more prestigious designations, such as the Certified Financial Planner, which require candidates to have a four-year college degree and at least three years of relevant experience in the financial industry. The CMPS credential has no such work or education requirements.

mortgage

Why Earn This Designation?

Loan originators who wish to distinguish themselves from the competition should seriously consider earning this credential. The CMPS designation offers many benefits to loan professionals, including:

  • Competence. The CMPS mark offers tangible proof that the designee has the knowledge and training to help clients achieve their goals.
  • Value. Loan professionals who carry the CMPS designation are more attractive to employers, and may command higher compensation.
  • Accountability. CMPS designees are bound by a strict code of ethics that is enforced by the CMPS Institute. This additional accountability may be seen as a benefit to prospects and clients.
  • Transparency. Clients and prospects can check with the CMPS Institute for an informational background on a designee.
  • Professional Resources. Designees have access to training modules covering a wide variety of topics on the CMPS website. They can receive coaching on a daily or weekly basis as well as assistance with sales, marketing, compliance, and other key issues that affect their business and the industry.
  • Increased Income. CMPS designees can often justify charging higher origination fees than their competitors because of the value that they can offer their clients. The CMPS Institute also trains its students in how to effectively prospect for investment property loans and lucrative commercial deals.

Final Word

Since its inception in 2005, the CMPS designation has stood as the premier financial credential in the mortgage industry. Those who are interested can also participate in a mortgage coaching program offered by the institute that uses a proprietary software program to help them to build their business.

Mark Cussen
Mark Cussen, CFP, CMFC has 17 years of experience in the financial industry and has worked as a stock broker, financial planner, income tax preparer, insurance agent and loan officer. He is now a full-time financial author when he is not on rotation doing financial planning for the military. He has written numerous articles for several financial websites such as Investopedia and Bankaholic, and is one of the featured authors for the Money and Personal Finance section of eHow. In his spare time, Mark enjoys surfing the net, cooking, movies and tv, church activities and playing ultimate frisbee with friends. He is also an avid KU basketball fan and model train enthusiast, and is now taking classes to learn how to trade stocks and derivatives effectively.

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