When Kevin R. Keller was tapped as the new chief executive officer of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in April, one of the financial trades queried: “Will the third CFP Board CEO be the charm?”
Keller, 46, follows — in pretty short order — two predecessors: interim CEO Don Tharpe, who had served for about six months, and Sarah Teslik, a two-year veteran.
Making the announcement about the new hire, Karen Schaeffer, who chairs the organization’s board of directors, noted confidently that Keller possesses the expertise and vision to lead the board at “this critical juncture” in its 22-year history.
Keller takes over the helm at a notable intersection in the CFP Board’s organizational timeline. First, the professional regulatory body for almost 55,000 CFPs is relocating from Denver to Washington, D.C. to ramp up its influence over policy involving financial planning and financial literacy. Keller calls the move, planned in the fourth quarter, “as much strategic as it is geographic.” Keller will also honcho the integration of the CFP Board’s new standards of professional conduct, announced May 31. The revised ethical guidelines raise the bar for certified financial planners — while also heightening public awareness.
“This is a great opportunity for the CFP Board to tell its story,” Keller says about the new ethical standards, which will take effect one year from now. “There’s a wide variety of designations, but it’s the CFP designation that is the gold standard. It is the one that really speaks to a comprehensive, holistic approach to financial planning. This is certainly an opportunity for the CFP Board to do a better job of telling its story about why it’s important to select an individual who has CFP certification if you’re in need of financial planning.”
Keller has a deep background in, as he puts it, “working in partnership with volunteer leaders to define their goals” and in working with staff “to operationalize the strategic vision.”
Most recently, he worked for 16 years at the Association for Financial Professionals, a 16,000-member organization that credentials certified treasury professionals. He also started AFP of Canada.
“Yes, there’s a comfort level,” Keller said about the similarities between the CFP Board and AFP. “One, they’re both volunteer organizations working with volunteer leaders. And the organization I came from has a certification program, not as large as the CFP, but the concepts of certification are the same: making sure the examination is valid, reliable and legally defensible.”
During the last seven years, Keller — tapped by the CFP Board after a seven-month search — served as AFP’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. During his tenure he managed basically every function, including — not coincidentally — AFP’s relocation from Connecticut to Bethesda, Md. Prior to that, Keller served in senior staff positions in associations involving agribusiness and commercial construction.
The upcoming move to Washington, D.C. means Keller will be working side by side with executives from the Financial Planning Association, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and others on financial planning policy topics like retirement security and college funding. “There’s power in numbers,” Keller says.