Hidden Hand: Marv Tuttle’s Low-Key Guidance Will Be Felt for Years

Today marks the last day of the 2012 FPA Experience conference, and more importantly, the end of the tenure of FPA CEO Marv Tuttle. Marv’s been at the helm of the the Financial Planning Association since 2004, when he took over the post from outgoing CEO Janet McCallen. McCallen was fine administrator with years of “association” experience, who helped put the fledgling FPA on sound financial footing after it was formed in the merger of the IAFP and ICFP in 2000.

But in truth, I always felt that McCallen should have been working for Tuttle and not the other way around. In my view (for what it’s worth), with the possible exception of the merger itself, naming Marv as CEO was the smartest thing any financial planning association has done in the 30 years I’ve been observing the profession. In fact, Marv Tuttle should serve as the role model for future heads of all the financial advisory organizations.

Marv started his career in the financial planning community as the communications director of the old ICFP back in 1983. That was a year before I started writing for Financial Planning magazine, which means Marv and I go back way farther than either of us probably cares to admit. During that time, Marv served as publisher of The Journal of Financial Planning for 20 years, the acting head of the ICFP, second in command at the ICFP (to David Brand), second in command at the FPA (to McCallen) and finally as CEO of the FPA, all positions that have gone to the heads of lesser people. But the phrase that keeps running through my mind which best describes Marv is that “it was never about him.” 

Marv’s decades of experience at the professionally minded ICFP (the original organization for holders of the CFP mark) gave him an invaluable understanding of the professional mission of the financial planning “movement,” where client-centered advice fits into the financial services industry, and the challenges it faces in gaining both credibility and market share. This isn’t something one can gain by reading a book, skimming some magazines, or holding a few “discussions with industry leaders.” This experience began to show as Marv helped McCallen navigate the conflicts inherent in the financial industry to increase revenues: unlike many “professionally trained association executives,” Marv understood that while a professional organization needs to “be in business” in order to better serve its members, it’s not a “business” in the sense that generating revenues should be its primary concern.

When Marv became CEO, his vision of the FPA as an organization to serve professional, client-centered advisors and their clients became even more apparent. The FPA filed the lawsuit challenging the FINRA/SEC’s attempt to extend the broker exemption (aka, the “Merrill Lynch Rule”) to managing assets. While clearly in the consumers’ best interests, the suit was not likely to endear the FPA to the huge—and growing—potential market of breakaway brokers. Under Marv’s guidance, the FPA also formally recognized the conflicts between advisors and BDs, politely but firmly asking its own broker-dealer division to create a separate organization (which became the Financial Services Institute).

Once again, it was a move that had to hurt the FPA’s bottom line, but it was also the right thing to do. And, in perhaps Marv’s crowning achievement, his broad perspective on the financial planning community enabled him to look beyond the apparent differences between the FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board and be instrumental in bringing together the three major planning organizations into the Coalition for Financial Planning, which someday could form the basis of a cohesive advisory profession.   

In these and myriad other initiatives and decisions, Marv has taken himself (and sometimes even the FPA) out of the equation, and used his industry knowledge and experience to guide the FPA to do what’s best for the advisory profession and the clients they serve. The result has been a remarkable string of accomplishments that no “industry outsider” and possibly no other “insider” could have hoped to achieve. 

I can only speculate that Marv also played a significant role in putting the FPA on the track for continued successes in the years to come by helping the executive committee to forgo its search process and name his protégé, Lauren Schadle, as his successor. With 18 years experience at the FPA, including 8 years as COO, Schadle is undoubtedly the best qualified candidate for the job, and the person best able to continue Marv’s low-key, industry-savvy guidance of the financial planning profession. 

Her appointment is perhaps the ultimate tribute to Marv Tuttle’s lasting legacy—one that will continue to be felt in so many ways for many years to come. 

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