Kamila Elliot, president and partner at the Washington D.C.-based wealth manager Grid 202 Partners, became the chair of the board of directors at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards on January 1. She’s the first Black chair to lead the policymaking group behind the CFP Board and its popular certification for financial advisors.
Elliot joined the board of directors in 2019 and was chosen to serve as chair-elect in 2021. The chair-elect, who the board votes on to choose every summer, replaces the chair at the start of the following year. (Daniel Moisand, a financial advisor at Moisand, Fitzgerald, Tamayo in Melbourne, Florida, is serving as chair-elect in 2021.) In addition to her affiliation with the CFP Board, Elliot has spent more than 14 years in finance, including stints at Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors.
The chair is the face of the company and they work directly with the CFP Board’s CEO, Kevin Keller, to ensure that the organization has the right strategies in place to achieve its goals.
“Younger people don’t look for diversity, but they notice the absence of diversity and so I think it’s important for us, for firms and others to realize, that if we want this to be a long-term sustainable profession, we have to match the people that need our advice and our support,” Elliot told RIA Intel.
Elliot said she thinks the lack of diversity at wealth managers, and consequently the CFP Board’s membership, is why it took so long for the first black chair to be elected since the CFP Board was founded in 1985.
“I don’t think anything was preventative. I just felt like sometimes it just takes a while for stars to align of having the right town in the right seat, having someone who has the capacity and then someone who has the passion to dedicate, you know, a lot of your discretionary time to really support the profession,” Elliott said.
Among its recent goals, the CFP Board has been working to grow and diversify its designation holders. In 2020, when it had more than 90,000 certificate holders, women made up about a quarter of the professionals and Black and Latino members made up less than 4 percent.
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But membership is becoming more diverse. In 2019, the number of Black and Latino members grew 12 percent, more than double the growth rate of the total membership. The growth rate for Black and Latino members was even higher in 2021 but the exact rate will not be revealed until later this year, a spokesperson for the CFP Board told RIA Intel.
“We’re really focusing on how do we groom the next, how do we groom future talent? How do we make sure that financial concerns are never an impediment to advancing your career and obtaining this designation?” Elliott said.
In 2021, the CFP Board launched five new scholarships aimed at advancing diversity in the financial planning profession for underrepresented racial or ethnic populations. The CFB Board currently administers ten different scholarship programs to assist underrepresented individuals with completing the education and exam requirements for CFP certification.
Like past years, the CFP Board’s 2022-2026 strategic goals also focus on ensuring certification standards, expanding access to financial planners, raising awareness of the CFP certification, and influencing regulatory policy.
This year, it plans to launch the Future Financial Planner Program designed to raise awareness of the profession among high school and college students.
Although she is eager to grow the ranks of CFP members, Elliott said the process to become certified will remain rigorous.
“Nothing is going to be easier,” Elliott said. “We are we’re never going to waver on the content and the structure and the difficulty of the exam. Right? I think we take pride that we want to make sure that professionals go out into the workforce, really well educated and prepared to serve.”
Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.