When Kevin Keller took the top spot at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in 2007, the organization, then based in Denver, was facing a crisis of confidence among many planners throughout the industry.

It didn't help that when Keller arrived, the organization was on its seventh CEO in as many years.

Now, nearly five years after relocating to Washington with a staff of just five, the CFP Board now carries an employee count of about 60, the number of certificants has soared, and the organization is actively engaged in the policy debates that figure to shape the regulatory landscape of the industry.

In an exclusive interview with Financial Planning, Keller talks about how far the organization has come, where it's going, and how it plans to further the professional stature of the financial-planning industry.

 

Read Part One of this interview, CFP Board’s CEO Discusses Group’s Continuing Evolution

Read Part Two of this interview, Looking Ahead to 2013: CFP Board’s Keller on Fees, Regulatory Outlook

And check out a behind the scenes photo essay, Inside the CFP Board.

Financial Planning: If you encounter a financial professional who might be on the fence about pursuing the CFP certification, what would your message be?

Keller: Three things. From our research, you will do better, your firm will do better, and your clients will do better because you have achieved CFP certification.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the CFP credential and the work of the board throughout the industry?

Keller: If there's one misconception that I'd like to address it's how hard it is to become certified. It's certainly not easy. But I believe in some ways the folks who already have become certified perpetuate the mystique about how difficult it is. There are tales out there of just how difficult it is. It's not easy, and I think that going forward in the future we at CFP Board have an opportunity to help people through that process. That doesn't mean we lower the standard so more people can get in, but I think in the past, we've not really done anything to counter that mystique. And there are things I think that we could do. A lot of people enter the educational program and never even sit for the exam, and I think if there was an opportunity for us it would be that we could help them through the process.

Would that entail an expansion of the organization? Logistically, how would you approach that?

Keller: We're still looking at ways [to help] once people enter the pipeline from when they first request information about becoming certified until we get them out the other end where they've passed the exam. We're looking at a number of opportunities, but not ready to talk about any of them. I don't see it as a major expansion. Think about it in the terms of a financial planner and a prospective client from the time they first become aware of the client until they get them actually signed on as a client -- there's a process. And the same with us -- we're seeking to define the pipeline, plug holes in the pipeline to help more people get out the other end and then work with the Financial Planning Association and NAPFA and other organizations to provide a more clearly defined career path for folks once they get out the other side.

I'd like to ask about your role internationally. Describe the CFP Board's role in working with the Financial Planning Standards Board to promote the credential overseas.

Keller: The Financial Planning Standards Board was a spinoff of CFP Board. It used to be the International Council of Certified Financial Planner Professionals. We work very closely [with the group]. We are a part of the international community. There are now 23 countries in the world that grant CFP certification. We do it in the U.S., and then the Financial Planning Standards Board essentially oversees CFP everywhere else in the world. So we have a seat at the table and are part of all the international standards-setting for CFP certification.

There are now more CFP professionals outside the U.S. than here in the U.S. Of course it started here, but there are now over 140,000 CFP professionals total.

(Editor's note: The global mix of CFP professionals comprises roughly 67,000 planners in the United States and about 73,000 in other countries.)

Check out the Fourth Part of this Interview: Inside Enforcement at the CFP Board

Read Part One of this interview, CFP Board’s CEO Discusses Group’s Continuing Evolution

Read Part Two of this interview, Looking Ahead to 2013: CFP Board’s Keller on Fees, Regulatory Outlook

And check out a behind the scenes photo essay, Inside the CFP Board.