CFP, CPA ... CKA? Why a Christian designation is gaining momentum

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As more advisors seek to connect their faith with their businesses, a Christian financial planning certification is on the rise at the largest independent broker-dealer.

More than 75 LPL Financial advisors are Certified Kingdom Advisors and around 500 advisors and other staff members participate in a support group at the firm, according to planner Bryan Mise of Summerville, South Carolina-based Compass Investment Advisors.

Only around 50 advisors were CKAs when the firm approved the use of the designation in marketing materials last year. A total of 1,180 designees working in financial services — advisors, accountants or other investment professionals — must meet prerequisite standards like being CFPs or CPAs. Designees also complete a training course and attend continuing education.

Financial advisor Ron Blue launched what was then called the Christian Financial Professionals Network in 2003. The issuing organization Kingdom Advisors has more than 2,700 members representing a wide range of Protestant denominations and some Catholics.

Fund companies like Timothy Plan, Eventide Asset Management and Crossmark Global Investments offer faith-based products. About 150 qualified clients visit the Kingdom Advisors website each day looking for advisors with the CKA mark, according to Mise.

“They're looking for advisors to align with their faith and values,” Mise says. “The designation has been really good for personal growth, but it also does help business growth as well.”

LPL CEO Dan Arnold was one of 200 attendees at a prayer breakfast that the firm’s support group held at last month’s annual Focus conference, Mise says. He’s also working with Charleston Southern University to start a CKA and CFP program for incoming freshmen this fall.

Financial advisor Ward Keever and LPL CEO Dan Arnold
At a prayer breakfast during LPL's Focus conference, financial advisor and Kingdom Advisor support group President Ward Keever introduced CEO Dan Arnold.

Mise credits Don Williams, an LPL senior relationship manager, with effectively taking on a second job by helping the support group with its outreach and regular events. The group holds quarterly calls with executives and featured guests like former NFL quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

“It was my personal faith that drew me to this community of LPL advisors,” Williams said in an email. “By having a group to turn to for support and best practices, advisors are able to differentiate their practices and create an opportunity to reach this investor segment.”

At least 28 firms have approved marketing the designation and nine others have support groups, according to Rob West, president of Kingdom Advisors. The organization also runs 234 study groups and a database of advisors who have “demonstrated professional competence and a commitment to biblically wise financial counsel,” according to its website.

Mise says he has been involved with the organization since he joined a study group in the Charleston area in 2012. He also participated in a breakout session about the designation at Focus, which, at 90 attendees, attracted nearly three times as many as one held the previous year.

“It’s about having the right people in the right places at the right time,” Mise says. “A lot of these advisors are Christian advisors, but they really haven't been doing it from the investing standpoint.”

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