With more than 500 attendees and 110 exhibitors, "NAPFA is back," Bill Baldwin, 2009-2010 chair of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, told the assembled multitude as the organization of fee-only planners opened its national meeting in Chicago from May 19-21.
One of the highlights of the opening session was a rap music video called "It Won't Go to Zero," which takes a humorous approach to the market cataclysm and offers some optimism about the markets and their resiliency. The video was created by Ken Robinson, a planner at Financial Self-Confidence in Cleveland, and can be viewed both on his firm's Web site and on You Tube.
In a Q&A session with industry press later that same morning, Baldwin outlined some of the organization's most recent accomplishments and goals and introduced his successor, Susan John, president of Financial Focus in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
In the past year NAPFA has made significant changes to the "Find an Advisor" portion of their Web site, Baldwin reported. In the past consumers had to release their personal information in order to find an advisor in their area. Now the potential client can view the advisors and then decide if they want their name and contact information to be referred to a local advisor. "What that has done is dramatically increase the number of people coming to the site that see our advisors," said Baldwin, adding that the site is now drawing more than 20,000 visitors each month, adding that in the last 12 months the site has had 257,000 visitors compared with about 120,000 in the previous year.
Baldwin also noted NAPFA's launch of a diversity initiative that was kicked off on the conference's second general session with a presentation on diversity by John Rogers of Ariel Investments (see sidebar at left) to be followed by an open roundtable discussion.
As the legislative process inched ahead in Washington, financial industry regulatory reform was on the minds of most NAPFA members. Baldwin and John together reported on the work being done in this area by the organization and its partners in the Financial Planning Coalition.
"We don't really know what's going to happen, except that there is going to be change," noted John. "We're concerned about how that affects our membership. I think over this next year one of the things we'll be concentrating on is strengthening the organization and helping our members deal with that change, whatever it may be."
John begins her term of office on September 1.