The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has always been one of the smallest organizations of financial planners and investment advisors, but what it's lacked in numbers, it's made up in the dedication of its members and the clarity of its principles. At its annual conference being held May 19 to the 22d in Tampa, however, the crowd is bigger while the passion remains unabated. "There are 816 registered for the conference," said NAPFA CEO Ellen Turf, and 140 exhibitors. The higher number of attendees could be traced to NAPFA's increased membership and the tendency of its members to attend the national conference, along with its decision to hold its annual gathering in concert with AITCO, the Association of Independent Trust Companies. The two groups, who share some members and a commitment to fees and fiduciary standards, are sharing the general sessions and the entertainment portion of the gathering, said Tom Batterman, a former president of AITCO.
The NAPFA Board has chosen member Peggy Cabaniss of Orinda, California, as chair-elect to succeed current chairman Jamie Milne of Barre, Vermont, in August. Cabaniss says NAPFA must "get our message out to everybody," despite the much deeper pockets of the financial services giants. Former NAPFA Chair Gary Schatsky of New York was also a presence at the meeting. He calls the group a "beacon of light" for both planners and consumers, pointing out the progress in visibility that the group has accomplished, especially in the consumer media.
Among the speakers at the event were John Rutledge, chairman of Rutledge Capital, who pulled no punches in his assessment of doings in Washington, D.C.--"Congress is the only whorehouse in the country that loses money"--the potential dangers in places like China--"they've had peasant revolts every 50 years for the past 6,000 years, and the last one was in 1948"--and on Social Security--"the retirement age will be increased; that's the only way to fix Social Security." Another speaker of note on day one of the conference was James P. Owen of Austin Capital Management, the author of Cowboy Ethics, who regaled the audience with the principles embodied by cowboys of old and of the present, interspersed with film clips from Westerns illustrating those principles.