FPA Denver Takeaway: Dodd-Frank; Finding Clients; Cautious Optimism on Markets

Healthy attendance and cautious optimism in evidence at annual gathering

FPA Executive Director Marv Tuttle speaking at FPA Denver 2010. FPA Executive Director Marv Tuttle speaking at FPA Denver 2010.

The annual Financial Planning Association meeting, this year in the FPA’s hometown of Denver, concluded Oct. 12, and by most measures it was a success, just as the FPA itself has been a success in its 10th year of existence. FPA Executive Director Marv Tuttle told John Sullivan of Investment Advisor and AdvisorOne.com in a video interview that there was a mood of “cautious optimism” among FPA members regarding the markets and the economy. He also listed regulatory issues, specifically implementation of the Dodd-Frank reform act, and the evergreen issue for advisors—how to find clients—as the top concerns of the 2,500 attendees, a number that Tuttle said was up 10% from FPA national’s 2009 conference in Anaheim, Calif.

In a private interview with Tuttle, FPA President Dr. Tom Potts and incoming President Marty Kurtz on Oct. 11, the three men spoke of the planner group’s priorities, which included a new branding campaign and a desire to reach more consumers.

That outreach was on display in a sponsored Wall Street Journal section appearing on Oct. 12 that included an open letter from Potts on the meaning and value of financial planning and a Q&A with contributions from many luminaries from the profession on financial planning topics of interest to consumers.

Even the group’s newly redesigned website—fpanet.org—defaults to a homepage for consumers rather than members, with Potts saying the group decided it could impose on members to click one more time to get to planner-specific content on the site. For consumers, the new site includes a planner search function, Potts pointed out, along with educational articles, such as one on “When You Should Take Social Security,” and keeping with the retirement planning focus, an online Social Security Predictor, which Potts said not only tells you what you’re scheduled to receive from the government, but also what you’re likely to receive in actual Social Security payments.

In the interview, Tuttle called this a “challenging and exciting” time for the FPA, noting the increase in attendance from the 2,200 attendees in 2009. While acknowledging that membership had declined from the 29,000 mark, the FPA could count upon its creation from the former IAFP and ICFP, when at its first FPA meeting it had 3,800 attendees in Boston in 2000, Tuttle said membership had stabilized at 24,000 members, and his “sense” is that membership will grow 3% to 4% this year, and that the FPA’s “budget house” is in good order: the budget this year is $13 million, Tuttle said.

The theme of the conference was to promote knowledge, inform members of its advocacy efforts, and grow the community of planners. Kurtz said that rather than think about the FPA as a “big tent,” it would be more accurate to call the group “a village of small tents” that includes six “communities of interest,” including:

  • NextGen, for younger members;
  • Impact, for “middle aged” members who have aged out of NextGen;
  • Women in Planning;
  • Master Planners, for older members;
  • Art of Hosting, a group facilitation approach that FPA itself uses; and
  • International, where it’s become apparent that the fiduciary issue is a worldwide consumer effort.
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