January 27, 2005

Guess Who's Wooing Indie B/D Firms?

As the FSI gets set to open its big B/D show, the SIA announces one of its own

With the Financial Services Institute preparing to open its first annual independent broker/dealer conference entirely under its own flag next week, the fledgling organization already has a new competitor: the Securities Industry Association, which has quietly announced an independent B/D show of its own this spring.

The SIA is generally regarded as the trade association for wirehouses and major regional brokerage firms. But Robert Gannon, a vice president with the SIA in New York, notes that the association has had an Independent Contactor Firms Committee since 1994. Until recently, the committee focused largely on lobbying Washington on the concerns of the 70 member firms that use independent reps. But the group has signed up several major independent broker/dealers lately, including Jefferson-Pilot and the ING Advisors Network. "This is one of the growing areas within the industry and the SIA's membership," says Gannon. "We felt that we needed to have more than a committee."

Gannon expects the SIA's Independent Firms Conference, to be held May 10 and 11 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to attract some 250 attendees. The conference program, which is online at www.sia.com/independent_firms/ features a program similar to that planned for the FSI's meeting that runs from January 31 to February 2 in Orlando. Both will focus on business management, recruiting, regulation, and compliance, with appearances by industry CEOs and pundits. The FSI program is at www.financialservices.org.

The SIA and the FSI already overlap in some areas. For example, FSI Chairman Stephen "Tony" Batman, CEO of Dallas-based 1st Global Inc., is also a member of the SIA contractor firms committee. In fact, Gannon notes that the committee and a predecessor to the FSI, the International Association for Financial Planning, used to lobby jointly and that the committee will also be running a session at the FSI's conference next week. "We're probably planning in the same ballpark as the FSI," Gannon says. "But it's better to have a couple of voices on the Hill supporting the independent channel than one."

Asked whether he sees the SIA as a threat to the FSI, Executive Director Dale Brown said, "Competition is good. It will cause us to deliver value." Brown added that the Atlanta-based FSI, which split off from the Financial Planning Association in 2003, now has 94 broker/dealer members. The 2004 annual broker/dealer conference was the last to be held under FPA sponsorship.

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