This is a hard time to tell skittish investors to buy stocks, bonds and other investments, even if the economic crisis has put everything on sale. But Eleanor Blayney, who loves analogies, explains it to investors this way: Buying when others are selling is like steering into the skid when driving on ice-it's counterintuitive, but it works.
Blayney, a CFP with more than 20 years in the financial planning business and a former partner at Sullivan Bruyette Speros & Blayney in McLean, Va., has been tackling such conversations head-on in a brand new role on the CFP Board of Standards: that of its first consumer advocate.
In this new position, created at the beginning of 2009, Blayney has been helping calm the panic of clients. Some of them, for example, have lost their jobs and she's helping by devising steps to guide them through the first few months of unemployment. Ultimately, she is offering guidance on how people can take control of their financial lives-Blayney feels control is important for all investors, and particularly for women. (More on that subject later.)
Her new job makes Blayney the first official public face of the CFP Board, though it wasn't her first role for the Washington, D.C.-based organization. Before her appointment, she had served as a volunteer on the board for years, and helped develop its first CFP practice standards.
"There was a lot of resistance to creating standards at first just because financial advisors, in what was then a new field, did not want rules imposed by someone else," says Marilyn Capelli Dimitroff, the president of the CFP Board and a friend of Blayney's who worked alongside her in standards development. "Now the standards have become the bedrock of the profession."
Recently, however, Blayney and CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller began to feel that something different was needed beyond standards, particularly as the dire economic challenges began to surface in early 2008. Using paper place mats on the table where they were having lunch, the two began sketching out the job of a liaison between CFPs and consumers. Blayney happened to be leaving one firm and starting up another when the new role came together.
"Kevin had this vision of creating a face and a voice for the CFP profession and for the board," says Blayney. "It would be someone who could speak to consumers and professionals-someone who could do a tremendous job of building the profession and creating standards of excellence and communicating that to the public.
She says the timing of the new position couldn't have been more perfect. "The American consumer is going through a crisis of confidence. They are confused and they feel betrayed by the financial world. Right now, in particular, it is important for consumers to know they can trust the integrity of CFPs. They need to know that the profession meets ethical standards and enforces compliance."
She adds, "Despite the dark clouds that are hanging over us, people who use a financial planner have much greater confidence in themselves and have a better sense of control."
In her new role, Blayney has been issuing press releases on financial issues, talking on radio and television and doing interviews for publications. In the next few months, she wants to communicate to the public what the CFP Board does to build and support the profession.