CrowdfundingHub, as a knowledge centre, is dedicated to develop a sustainable ecosystem supporting the growth of crowdfunding and alternative finance. As part of this ambition CrowdfundingHub encourages knowledge sharing and extensive training programs for crowdfunding professionals. In collaboration with the HAN University of Applied Sciences, CrowdfundingHub started a research in the field of quality improvement of these professionals by investigating the need for certification.
The crowdfunding industry is a young and fast growing industry. Different types of professionals are entering the industry with the aim of advising entrepreneurs on their crowdfunding strategy from a legal, financial and/or marketing perspective. Their knowledge may vary widely depending on their specific background. Advisors can have a long track record in the financial services industry, like e.g. accountants, but still lack specific knowledge about the marketing aspects of a crowdfunding campaign and the long term added value of building a network of investors around the company.
Several issues arise from this wide variety in background of professionals. E.g. what sort and level of knowledge is best suitable? It is obvious that entrepreneurs benefit from training and certification of crowdfunding professionals. But professionals can also feel the need for certification because it enables them to distinguish themselves. For regulators certification can be an addition to their regulatory requirements.
However, it is not enough to just focus on the benefits. At least as important Is how certification can be successful implemented. Obviously, acceptance and support from professionals is important, but also support from the crowdfunding platform owners who hire these professionals to help their entrepreneurs on their platform. Furthermore, it is essential that certification is not an imposed requirement by regulators. Many practical issues need to be addressed as well. E.g. what organisations are involved in the training and examination of professionals and in the issuance of certificates? Last not be least, who is monitoring those organisations?
With these questions in mind, our researcher Flip de Jonge, interviewed a lot of financial services professionals in the Netherlands. By preliminary data, it seems that there is definitely a need for certification, but there is no clear view yet under which conditions it should be implemented. Crowdfunding platforms have already indicated that they strongly encourage the idea of certification in the market. For them it is a way to stream their processes in working with the advisors that are independent professionals or preferred suppliers form accountancy firms.
There are no final recommendations yet. However one of the recommendations will most likely be to start with a pilot project of six months. The industry is very young and develops very fast, flexibility and agility are necessary in designing effective certification.