May 5, 2011

At FPA Townhall, CEO Tuttle Says 'Downward Spiral' in Membership Is Over

At FPA Retreat, fiduciary standard, growth of Women and Finance community and lobbying efforts are addressed.

The Financial Planning Association hosted a townhall-style meeting at its 2011 Retreat in Bonita Springs, Fla., Thursday afternoon that included frank comments about the state of the organization, where it’s been and where it’s going.

It was near the end of the event that the organization’s CEO and executive director, Marv Tuttle, mentioned the organization’s controversial split with the broker-dealer members of FPA who would form the Financial Services Institute (FSI) in 2003.

It was rumored we kicked people out of FPA,” Tuttle said. “We never did that. We recognized we could not in good conscience serve two masters and have advocacy agendas for both financial planners and broker-dealers. Even though it was a hit to our budget, the board made the courageous decision to disassociate ourselves because it was the right thing to do.”

Furthermore, Tuttle (left) reported that the “downward spiral” in the organimarv tuttle of the FPAzation’s membership had ceased. “We fell from 28,000 members to 23,500 members,” he said. “It was a tumultuous time. We reduced our budget and our staff to do what we had to in order to get our message out and continue to serve members.”

The session featured Tom Potts, FPA's 2011 chairman; President Martin Kurtz; and, President-Elect Paul Auslander. Participants delivered prepared remarks and took questions from the audience ranging from FPA’s present health and stability to advocacy and political issues and a call for more women to be included in the organization’s leadership.

Kurtz spoke first, noting that some organizations shy away from difficult discussions that affect their members, and pointed to the blue bracelets handed out at the retreat that read, “clients first.”

“It’s a small but symbolic step to put it out there,” Kurtz said.

martin kurtz of the FPAKurtz (left) mentioned the importance of advocating for the implementation of the current SEC fiduciary standard proposals, and said he has been crisscrossing the country speaking with advisors and other interested parties about the issue. Kurtz (left) also noted an increase in the number of FPA-affiliated student groups on college campuses, and an increase in the number of international FPA-affiliated groups as well.

“The international groups want to actively market and promote FPA-USA,” he said. “You might ask yourself why? It’s because they like the level of our standard of care and see it as a model for what they are trying to achieve.”

Kurtz also mentioned the Women and Finance community that the organization recently established, and explained that when the leadership invited all female FPA members to join, 400 immediately did so, and it is now the largest community group in the FPA organization. That fact received applause from audience members.

He finished his remarks by noting the success of the NextGen community, and passed the microphone to Auslander. The president-elect read from a laundry list of initiatives the organization was taking with politicians and regulators in the federal and state governments.

He mentioned that, through the organization’s outreach efforts, FPA was seen as a non-partisan resource by politicians and regulators in many states, and was a growing trend in others.

“We’re engaging with state and federal regulators,” he said. “We advocating for the SEC to retain its authority to regulate broker-dealers and advisors and we’re educating politicians and regulators about financial planners and the profession.

This has resulted in a voice at the table for rules harmonization, and we had a hand in repealing 1099 requirements for small businesses. We even were asked to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on this issue.”

tom potts of the FPAPotts (left) was next to speak, noting his time chairman of the board “has been a blur.” He was particularly impressed with FPA members, but also with FPA staff, which he says graciously accepted more responsibility and burden as dwindling membership numbers forced budget cuts. He announced that the organization is gearing up to perform a review of staff and leadership to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

“Although the staff works very hard on your behalf, we can always do better,” he said.

He mentioned the effectiveness of the Financial Planning Coalition (FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board) in Washington.

“We went to Capitol Hill and said ‘we want regulation,’” Potts related. “They looked at us and said ‘What?’ and we said ‘We want appropriate regulation.’ One reason people fail to seek financial advice is that they don’t know whom to trust. We must reengage the public and give them confidence in our profession and in our economy. One way to do this is to encourage the SEC to implement its fiduciary standard. We asked you to sign a petition as part of that process, and we received 2,800 signatures in one week.”

Tuttle wrapped the formal discussion by noting the organization is working to ensure that all those who seek access to financial planning services are able to receive it. He reviews core achievements in FPA’s 11 year history, and said their support of the CFP designation from the beginning is now coming to fruition.

“Seeing President Obama at Ground Zero today made me think of what was happening with the organization in 2001,” Tuttle (left) said. “We immediately got involved in helping after 9/11 with our pro-bono efforts. It was one of the proudest moments for FPA, and today we have 70 chapters involved with pro-bono work for military families, schools and others.”

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