Dale Brown: Architect of FSI—The 2015 IA 35 for 35

In a short 11 years, the Dale Brown-led FSI has grown in membership and budget while staying focused on IBD advocacy in Washington and the states

Dale Brown has appeared on the IA 25 every year since 2007. (Portrait: Joel Kimmel) Dale Brown has appeared on the IA 25 every year since 2007. (Portrait: Joel Kimmel)

Eleven; 27, 100+; 37,000, $8.5 million. While it can be misleading to use numbers to gauge the importance and reach of an organization, these numbers from the Financial Services Institute tell a good tale: 11 years of operation—emanating from the Financial Planning Association; 27 professional staff members in the group; more than 100 independent broker-dealer member firms; 37,000 individual advisor members in FSI; and a 2015 budget of $8.5 million that includes allocations to hire three new advocacy staffers, bringing the total number to 13.

Regarding Dale Brown, we can add another number: nine, for the number of years Brown has found a place on the IA 25.

When asked how the group, and specifically Brown himself, has been able to get the sharply competitive leaders of those 100-plus IBDs to put aside their differences and pull together for the FSI—and just as importantly to help fund the group—he’ll usually say it's FSI's “laser-like focus on advocacy.”

In an interview in May for the IA 35 for 35, Brown expanded on how he’s able to get those IBD leaders to beat their competitive swords into cooperative plowshares. “We make sure we work on the right issues that matter to our members, and focus on being effective in impacting those issues.” Brown said. “It doesn’t do our members any good—or the industry—if we’re not focused on effectiveness, so we’re constantly assessing every issue,” asking if the strategy we’re pursuing is going to be “effective in getting results.”

That strategy, to pick the issues on which FSI can be successful, has resonated with the IBD leaders who support FSI with their voices and their pocketbooks. “Our members have seen us deliver,” Brown said, “on being effective and engaged constructively and for the long haul” with regulators, legislators on Capitol Hill and the states. When told that Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly had said recently that while he and Raymond James had certain reactions to the Department of Labor fiduciary proposals, before commenting publicly he wanted to see what “our partners” at FSI thought about the proposal, Brown said, “your point is spot on. What we’ve been able to build with our members is a constant collaborative effort where they can rely on us for critical intelligence and follow our lead on how to have a positive impact” on advocacy efforts. “They have to be engaged right alongside us in the advocacy process."

So how important are the states to FSI? “State securities regulators are on the front lines of consumer protection,” Brown said, so when a consumer “feels they’ve been harmed by an advisor,” they go first to the state securities regulators. That’s why FSI has “focused more deeply on working with state regulators and NASAA—to bring our members’ perspective [to bear]” on local issues. FSI also is working with NASAA, the state securities regulators’ organization, on fighting elder financial abuse, Brown reported, and working with state regulators on “projects to enhance financial literacy.” With FSI’s “unique perspective from working with Main Street clients,” it’s committed to supporting investor protection. Brown said FSI has been “very engaged” with those several states that are proposing state-run and –mandated retirement plans for private employees.

As for the future, Brown said he doesn’t see any change in the “critical role our members play in helping clients save for retirement and pay for college." Independent broker-dealers and RIAs “will continue to be the best choice for Main Street.”

When asked of which personal accomplishments he was most proud, Brown said he has been “blessed with four incredible children; the most important roles I play in life are as husband and father—when I keep those priorities in order, I’m more effective in leading FSI.”

But he made sure to say that he accepted the IA 35 for 35 honor as being “not just a reflection of me, but something we’ve been able to do over the past 11 years. We have an incredible team, with a commitment every day, and a phenomenal board who believe in the work we do and fully support us—so I share that recognition.” 

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See the full 2015 IA 35 for 35 and the calendar for extended profiles of each honoree.

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