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"If we ask for a meeting, we get a meeting," says Dan Barry, the Financial Planning Association's director of government relations, in discussing the largest planner group's standing on Capitol Hill and among regulators, though he admits that providing education to members of Congress and especially to their personal staffs remains an issue for financial planners.
In an interview October 11 during the FPA's annual gathering, which took place this year in Anaheim, Barry said that as House and Senate committees discuss the scope of financial services reform, he remained "optimistic that the FPA's position is understood" on the Hill and among regulators.
Speaking of access to legislators, Barry, who is running the group's advocacy efforts in Washington in the wake of 14-year FPA veteran lobbyist Duane Thompson's departure in September, said that while having a large political action committee does help an organization gain access, "constituent access can be as important as PACs." Barry, an attorney who formerly worked for both Fannie Mae and SIA, said he and Thompson "always worked the same issues," so he feels comfortable taking up the advocacy reins for the FPA's 25,000 members.
In his reading of the Administration's reform priorities, financial services remains on the short list--following healthcare and the energy cap and trade issue--and while traditionally the Congressional financial services committees "tend to act by consensus" in law making, these days he finds that's more the case in the Senate than in the House.
Beyond overall financial services reform, the fiduciary issue remains central to the FPA's lobbying efforts, and it has publicly voiced support for extending the fiduciary standard to the broker community. As for the much-talked-about harmonization of rules governing advisors and brokers, Barry says it has been the FPA's position that "harmonization should raise" the standard for brokers, rather than place the standards somewhere "in the middle."