In a 1,700-mile cross-country move designed to gain a bigger voice for CFP licensees in policy and lawmaking decisions in the nation's capital, the CFP Board of Standards will move its headquarters from Denver to Washington, D.C., by the end of the year.
   "We're recognizing that if we're going to accomplish our mission to make sure the public gets ethical, competent advice, we have to be where that policy is being shaped and sit in on those conversations," CFP Board of Directors Chair Karen P. Schaeffer says.
   The move is especially key as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) undertakes its overhaul of Investment Advisors Act regulation, she says. Schaeffer declines to specify the cost of the move, but says it will impact the CFP Board's 40 current employees, who will have the opportunity to reapply for their jobs. Those who decide not to make the move or who aren't hired will get "generous severance and job counseling," adds Schaeffer, who says that a group of consultants the CFP Board hired is still working out what staffing competencies are needed at the new headquarters. Office space has yet to be located.
Schaeffer indicates the motivation to move this year is more complex than FPA's growing Washington presence and the success of its five-person government relations office, especially its recent landmark legal victory forcing the SEC to rescind its "Merrill Lynch" exemption for brokers offering investment advice.
   "That wasn't it so much, but there have been a lot of developments and it's more and more clear that financial planning is being done and regulated in so many different venues in a piecemeal way," she says. "And we're out in Denver saying, 'Hey, talk to us. We'll facilitate that. We'll steer that. We know about that.' We didn't have the relevance we would have liked in many situations where decisions regarding planning have been key."
   Schaeffer says that the decision was not made recently, but over a number of years. "I've been on the board five years now, and I think the feeling was there when I started that the board was missing opportunities in Washington and had a mission that it wasn't fulfilling as well as it could."
   While the CFP Board attempted to create a Washington presence by opening an office in the northern Virginia suburbs back in 2000, the group's controversial and now-departed CEO, Sarah Teslik, shuttered that office and terminated its two employees a month before officially beginning her job in January 2005. Now, a little over two years later, the CFP Board is ready to move its entire headquarters there.
   After a six-month search for Teslik's replacement, the CFP Board will name its new CEO "in short order," says the board's outside spokesman, Javier E. David. As for policy priorities once it moves to Washington, Schaeffer says the board will work those out in May. "We have to be enlightened regulators first and foremost, and I think by being in Washington, D.C., we'll inspire a vision of how to do that," she argues.
   Is becoming a true self-regulatory organization like the National Association of Securities Dealers in the cards for the group, which oversees 55,000 CFPs in the United States and another 55,000 abroad? "It's not on my list of priorities right now," says Schaeffer. "Our first mission is to serve the public. It's hard to have conversations about an SRO when there are some pieces of the puzzle still coming into place, like the evolution of planners themselves."

-Tracey Longo