New CFP Board ads feature lesbian couple

The board is trying to attract a more diverse clientele to CFPs

Feb 11, 2019 @ 2:48 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Television ads launched Monday by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. feature a lesbian couple, a move intended to promote CFPs to the gay community.

The ad titled "Jen and Maya" centers on a same-sex couple that owns a business and is anticipating starting a family.

"It's not about this fund or that fund," one of the actors says. "It's about us."

The ad is one of three — the other two focus on a retired couple and a single Asian woman — that went up on national cable television and national radio. The television networks carrying the ads include CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

"The thinking here was not to make a political statement, but it was to represent reality," said Kevin Keller, CFP Board chief executive. "These ads reflect the buying power and the wealth of the LGBT community. We're happy to be including these messages and representing the broad American public who can benefit from a certified financial planner."

Some automobile, technology and financial commercials over the years have hinted they are portraying same-gender couples, but the CFP Board ad leaves no room for interpretation.

"What's unique about this ad is that it's more obvious," Mr. Keller said.

Not only are the clients diverse in lesbian-couple ad, their adviser is Hispanic.

Diana Bacon, a senior wealth adviser at Financial Strategies Group in Dallas, said the inclusiveness portrayed in the ad shows that planning is applicable to everyone "not just the 63-year-old white male" often depicted sitting on a beach.

"It's obviously focusing on diversity. I love it," Ms. Bacon said. "If we want to see more diversity [in financial services], part of that will come from a diverse client base. We have to serve more diverse people. This ad campaign speaks to that."

The CFP Board has made diversity a priority through its Center for Financial Planning.

"We're trying to own diversity and inclusion in financial services," Mr. Keller said. "I don't mean own in a possessive way. We're taking a leadership role out there."

This year, the CFP Board will spend $9.6 million on its ad campaign, with more than half of it devoted to television advertising. The rest will encompass radio, digital, print, social media and other platforms.

The campaign was launched in 2011 and has been renewed each year by the CFP Board. It is financed by a $145 annual fee that is added to the CFP certification fee. The cost of the campaign to individual CFPs has remained steady, but the overall campaign budget has increased because the number of CFPs who are paying the additional charge has risen to 83,000 this year from about 61,950 at the beginning of 2011.

Mr. Keller said surveys of CFPs show that building brand awareness is their top priority, followed closely by enforcing the organization's standards.

Ryan Cole, a private wealth adviser at Citrine Capital in San Francisco, endorses the campaign.

"We think the ads are great, and worth every penny," Mr. Cole wrote in an email. "I'm really happy to see that the advertisements are reflecting the diverse populations we work with on a daily basis."

But Jon L. Ten Haagen, founder and chief executive of Ten Haagen Financial Services Inc. in Huntington, N.Y., wants the CFP Board's ads to focus more on comparing and contrasting the CFP to other credentials.

"What I'd like to see is an ad that shows the difference between every Tom, Dick and Harry who says, 'I am a financial adviser' versus 'I am a [CFP].' It is a night-and-day difference," he said.

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