An open letter to CFP Board Chairman Dave Diesslin.

Dear Dave,

Congratulations, my friend. With great hope, I anticipate your 2004 stewardship as CFP Board Chair will be awesome. I can't think of better hands.

We have known each other for what-16, 17 years? I know you, your love of the profession and your integrity. You will do your best and your best is darn good. Accordingly, I have grounded hope that this year CFP Board finally establishes its identity and purpose within the financial planning universe.

At stake: literally a once-in-a-lifetime chance for hiring paid leadership to match the vision and perspective of recently evolved volunteer leadership. Maybe our only chance.

This is the year of opportunity. This is also the year to take dead reckoning on past shortcomings, recognizing possibilities and acknowledging CFP Board limitations.

Obviously, this open letter is not without purpose or agenda. So, please, let me take advantage of our friendship to put some issues into the sunshine. Forgive me if I step on a toe or three but I don't believe we can, or should, shut our eyes to what has been in the process of determining what could be. What "could be" would be awesome. What "is" is too frequently confusing and misdirected.

CFP Board is unique. Its underlying concept is compelling. Yet, it has consistently had trouble with its identity and power. The simple truth has been that CFP Board has time and again fallen short. This may only fail to meet my own hopes but I know I am not alone. Too often this has been rooted in its failure to understand the distinction between its role as regulator and miscellaneous political diversions. Too often, it has succumbed to raw, aggressive expansionism; too often, to ego grounded in threat.

Some four years ago, I wrote an article regarding CFP Board. In it, an old metaphor served to describe it as the proverbial "elephant in the living room" that "nobody talks about."

The observation centered on the notion that everyone knew CFP Board was there. Unfortunately we had no real clue as to its reason for being, or its genuine purpose in our lives. We just knew it was big, ostensibly important, expensive to feed and difficult to avoid. The article was part of the whole CFP Lite conversation. Unfortunately, the "CFP Lite" parts dominated.

Happily, CFP Lite died ignominiously. Regrettably, CFP Board's reason and purpose remained in the shadows. Given the issues engaged and our various stakes, this was too bad.