Stationery and Business Cards
Practitioners generally have fairly wide latitude in designing stationery and business cards with respect to both the design and language that is used. Some companies, of course, may have more stringent requirements than others. A practitioner's letterhead and business cards must include sufficient information to adequately identify him or her and the company being represented without being misleading.
An example of a business card for a certified financial planner (CFP) would be Sarah Smith, CFP and Associates. A similar-but possibly improper-business card might read Sarah Smith and Associates, Certified Financial Planners. The problem with this latter card is that, unless all of Sarah's associates are CFPs, it gives the client inaccurate information. The second example implies that all associates are CFPs when, in fact, only Sarah Smith may be a CFP. If the practitioner is a stockbroker or registered representative both the letterhead and business cards should indicate that and should also provide the name and address of the registered broker/dealer.
In addition, the practitioner needs to provide his or her company affiliation on both the letterhead and business cards. For those practitioners that use the products of multiple companies, it is important that if products are listed the company with whom each product is placed and its principal home office address should also be supplied. How the practitioner identifies him- or herself on a business card or letterhead is important since these are, typically, the first pieces of sales material received by the client that identify the practitioner.
The way the practitioner refers to him- or herself presents similar ethical concerns. The rule that needs to guide the individual is that the title used must not state or imply something that is not true either as to credentials, licensing or special skills. For example, the term "financial planner" should not be used by a life insurance agent unless the individual using the title is a Registered Investment Adviser. Although it is clear that the use of the designations CPCU, CLU, CFP, ChFC or CPA would be improper and deceptive unless the practitioner had earned them, the use of a title such as "financial consultant," "financial planner," "investment planner," etc. would also be improper unless the individual had registered with the SEC and/or the appropriate state attorney general as an investment adviser.
It is important that a practitioner's business card and letterhead permit the client or prospect to properly identify him or her as a property and casualty agent, a life insurance agent, a stockbroker, a registered representative, a registered investment adviser, etc. In addition, when a client receives the piece he or she should be able to determine what the practitioner sells.