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
Read Part Three of this interview, How to Attract the Next Generation of CFPs
I have to ask you about enforcement. Since the fiduciary requirement was adopted in July 2008, how has your enforcement regime changed and how do you see it evolving?
Keller: The board of directors initially adopted a fiduciary standard of care for CFP professionals -- they initially passed the language in 2007. It became effective in January 2008 and we began enforcing it in July of 2008. It has changed the way our enforcement team looks at cases. The fiduciary standard applies when a certificant is providing financial planning services or material elements of the financial-planning process. And so in the enforcement process, the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission has to determine whether they were actually providing financial-planning service or not.
I think it has made us more credible in our enforcement processes. And it has caused our Disciplinary and Ethics Commission to look at cases in a way different than they have in the past. I think it is the future. I would suggest to you that the Dodd-Frank bill, which gives the SEC permissive authority to enforce a fiduciary standard for broker-dealers, came to many of the same conclusions that we did at CFP Board when we imposed it fully three years earlier. There is a recognition that it is possible to provide proprietary products under a fiduciary standard and some of the other issues that we've wrestled with as well. We're still trying to figure out how they will be dealt with, but certainly Dodd-Frank included recognition of some of the difficult issues.
Would you say there is more uniformity in your enforcement actions since you adopted the standard?
Keller: I think there's been more uniformity across the board in our enforcement process. We have issued sanction guidelines and approved those, and the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission is working with those now. The richness of the anonymous case histories has increased significantly since we came here. Michael Shaw, who runs our enforcement process, came from FINRA and has brought a steady stream of improvements to CFP Board and its enforcement process along the way. So I think that these are all enhancements.
Our objective in the enforcement process is to be fair to all of the participants and to be credible to the public. And to that end, we have added public member representation to the enforcement process and to the hearing process, and I'm really proud of the accomplishments we've had there.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of your move to Washington. If we were to sit down again in five years, how do you imagine that you would recount the Board's accomplishments between now and then?
Keller: I think there are four priorities that our board of directors has set out for the future. They've been discussing -- these are areas of focus -- they have not locked in, but these are the four priorities that they have given the staff.