May 7, 2012

FPA’s Auslander Describes New Practice Management Track

Association’s president reflects on successes, disappointments and his advice to successor

President Paul Auslander of the FPA speaking at the 2011 retreat. President Paul Auslander of the FPA speaking at the 2011 retreat.

Paul Auslander, president of the Financial Planning Association and chairman and CEO of Orlando-based American Financial Advisors, sat with AdvisorOne on Monday at the 2012 FPA Retreat in Scottsdale, Ariz., to discuss the organization’s planned practice management track.

“We’re not a certifying or regulatory body, so we have to demonstrate the value to our members of having them write a check to us,” Auslander said. “One of the ways in which we do that is to offer things like help with practice management.”

He added that “the world is changing rapidly, and smaller planners are not always prepared for the tough questions clients are asking post-2008. Questions about their fiduciary duty, whether nor not the planner will put his interests ahead of the client, how they are compensated and the organizations that are available so the client can crosscheck what the advisor is saying.”

The practice management track is currently being developed "in a healthy competition" between 3Ethos’ Don Trone and fi360, both of whom are “breaking their butts to get something to us.”

“It will also involve succession planning, where we will have a Match.com-type of a platform to connect seasoned pros with interns and junior planners that might well one day take over their business. But realistic valuations of the business are also important. Too often the industry will value a practice at a certain amount, but when they go to the bank for a loan they get laughed at. So we have to accurately value what is usually the planner’s biggest asset.”

Moving on to the advice he has for his successor, president-elect Michael Branham of Cornerstone Wealth Advisors in Edina, Minn., Auslander first heaps praise.

“I think Michael is the best example of a young practitioner I have ever seen. I’ve never before been so impressed with the way he represents the future of our profession.”

He said he’s told Branham to “leave his dogma at the door, and to go into every meeting with an open mind. There are other voices on the board, but eventually he may be the only voice when a decision is made.”

When asked about any disappointment during his tenure as president and what he might do differently if given the opportunity, Auslander says, “as an organization, we should have focused on practice management earlier, and now we’re doing it quickly. One could argue that events have dictated that now is the perfect time to focus in this area, but we should have done it sooner.”

He also echoed executive director and CEO Marv Tuttle by noting an increased focus on lobbying state governments, one that is jointly coordinated with the national organization in Denver.

“As for the next SRO; I’m pretty sophisticated politically, but I’ve never seen two political parties hate an agency as much as they do the SEC,” he said. “It might be FINRA or some other SRO, but the key for us is not to be an impediment to the process of choosing, rather a help.”

Auslander concluded by saying the association’s short-term goals are to build the systems needed to achieve its long-term goals.

“It’s never been better time to be a financial planner. This is no longer the Wild, Wild West. I never want to say someone’s pain is someone else’s benefit, but 2008 was a wake-up call for clients.”

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Check out AdvisorOne's full coverage of 2012 FPA Retreat.

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