CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller talks
about enforcing the fiduciary
standard and building the image of
the profession. By Kenneth Corbin
When Kevin Keller left he Association for Financial Profession- als for the top spot at
the Certified Financial Planner Board
of Standards in 2007, the organization,
then based in Denver, faced a crisis of
confidence — internally and externally. It didn’t help that the group was
on its seventh CEO in as many years.
One of the first things Keller did was
move the group to Washington. When
he set up shop in the capital, his staff
numbered only five; the CFP Board
now has about 60 employees. Meanwhile, the number of certificants has
soared, and the organization is actively
engaged in the policy debates shaping
the industry’s regulatory landscape.
In an interview with Financial
Planning, Keller talks about how the
organization has revamped, where it’s
going, and how it hopes to further the
professional stature of the financial
planning industry. (Highlights of the
conversation follow; a longer version
of the interview can be found at financial-planning.com.)
When you took the reins in May 2007,
you were the seventh CEO in seven
years. What was the state of the board
at that time?
The CFP Board then was an organization that had a real deficit in its trust
bank with its certificant stakeholders.
There had been a number of controversial issues over the previous decade
— issues about a potential new certification that CFP Board might offer,
controversy over how the organization
had gone about changing its ethical
standards. There was real mistrust.
The mandate that I was given was
to move the organization from Denver to D.C., get the office set up and
develop a public policy infrastructure,
keeping it running the whole time.
After we moved in 2007, the whole
concept of reaching out and doing a
better job of listening was a priority.
The CFP Board didn’t have deep
roots in the public policy arena
— it had done very little, in fact,
until that point. But the board of
directors felt the CFP Board had
a very important message that
wasn’t being heard in Washington.
Last April, you launched a four-year
public-awareness campaign to raise
the profile of the CFP professional.
What is the goal?
One of the first things we did [after I
started] was start going out and talking to CFP certificants in town hall
meetings. And what people told us
was that they wanted more awareness of the CFP certification. It was
surprisingly consistent from city to
city: “I’ve worked really hard to earn
my CFP certification. I feel good that
I’ve accomplished the task. I feel like I
can provide my clients better service. I
just wish more people knew about it.”
The primary objective of the campaign is to increase awareness of CFP
certification among the public.
Some critics say the $40 million ad
blitz isn’t worth the higher fees. How
do you respond?
Well, we think the additional $145 a
year is a small price. Our retention
rate — the percentage of people who
December 2012 Financial Planning 41