Kevin Keller celebrated his first year as CEO of the CFP Board of Standards on May 1, 2008. During Keller’s first year on the job, the CFP Board uprooted itself from Denver and moved its headquarters to Washington so that it could “play a more active role” in directing policymaking, he says. How’s that move panning out? “It’s going quite well,” he says. Since moving to Washington, Keller points out that “we have hired a top-notch management team and re-staffed the organization. That almost seems like a nonevent, but it was certainly an important accomplishment for the last year. We have weighed in on a number of public policy initiatives, specifically working with NASAA and the Senate Special Committee on Aging on this senior credential issue.”
Another accomplishment, he notes, was issuing the CFP Board’s new Standards of Professional Conduct, which will become effective July 1. The CFP Board has “also established a new Council on Education to help advise the staff on standards for our registered programs, continuing education programs, and our review course providers.”
So what’s on tap for year two? Keller says his second year and beyond will focus on “telling our story and telling the story of the value of CFP certification to the general public.” But he also plans to open the lines of communication between the CFP Board and CFPs–promising an announcement along these lines in June. “I think there is an opportunity for us to reach out more to the certificant community to hear what’s on their minds,” he says. “The opportunity exists to build better two-way communication channels than currently exists.” His second year will also be filled with “building and announcing a public policy council (made up primarily of CFPs) to help advise the staff on the public policy initiatives that we’re considering.”
Keller talked with Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell in a telephone conversation May 2 about the Board’s accomplishments over the past year, the new ethical standards, the recent tumult at the Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (DEC), and the challenges he sees for CFPs and advisors.
May 1 was your first anniversary as CEO of the CFP Board. What’s been your greatest achievement, and the Board’s, over the past year?
It’s been a very short year, but one filled with a lot of challenges and we think a lot of accomplishments. If I had to pick one, it would be helping to position CFP Board to be poised for the future with the new strategic plan and the restatement of the organization’s mission.
What does the new strategic plan accomplish?
The board articulated a mission, and while it may seem unusual that the organization didn’t have a strategic plan, there had been a lack of focus. So the new mission is to benefit the public by granting the CFP certification and upholding it as the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. Then the board articulated six core objectives in areas that it spelled out for our staff to pursue–there are no surprises, but clearly articulating our examination, education, enforcement, communications, advocacy, and sustainability.
Does this strategic plan include the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission area?
Not specifically, although enforcement is one of the pillars of the strategic plan. The board articulated a core objective in the enforcement area that very clearly sets out our role in the enforcement function of protecting the public’s interest through rigorous and ongoing enforcement of our standards of professional conduct. The Disciplinary and Ethics Commission plays an important role in that enforcement process; after the staff conducts the investigations and prepares the cases, the DEC hears those cases. The [CFP Board] organization has been evolving for almost 30 years; what we did in the last year is accelerate the pace of change to address the real-world challenges.
Five of the nine members of the Discipline and Ethics Commission (DEC) resigned recently because you as CEO will now oversee the selection of members and the election process, not the volunteers who make up the DEC. Will the DEC remain a peer-to-peer body?
Our policies and requirements are that the DEC will always have a majority of certificants on the commission.
The DEC won’t have to come to you to get approval of their decisions?
Not at all. That was never the case. There were really two or three items that they [DEC members] felt strongly about. One was the inclusion of public members in the hearing panels, and the board of directors had always contemplated that. I think for an organization whose mission it is to serve the public or to benefit the public, for the enforcement process to be seen as credible in the eyes of the public, it needs to have both a representation by the public but it also needs to be fair to certificants. It’s just trying to provide a public point of view in that process.