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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

"Beacon" or Designation

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Examine the business card of a random member of the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (NAPFA), and chances are, you will find imprinted upon it no big and bold mention of NAPFA. The fee-only trade group, headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, would like to remedy this omission, by having members identify themselves as NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisors.

It is hoped the new term will become a “beacon” for consumers when seeking a personal financial advisor, says NAPFA Chairman Steve Kanaly. Towards this end all members are being encouraged to update their marketing and information materials accordingly. “In time, we anticipate that NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor will become a readily recognized professional affiliation in our industry,” he adds.

That’s not to say that NAPFA is trying to create another professional designation, such as CFP, Kanaly makes clear. Rather, NAPFA-Registered Advisor represented a “better way to describe our membership,” and “really represents what we really are and want to be,” he explains, adding that the moniker also gives NAPFA a bit more “21st Century pizzazz, culture, and class.”

NAPFA will back its designation effort with soon-to-be-launched national, regional, and local advertising campaigns, targeted at consumers and the financial services industry. The ads will differentiate NAPFA members from other advisors calling themselves fee-only, by explaining “who we are–not just in fee-only, objective, comprehensive financial planning but in full disclosure–and why we’re so valuable to the consumer,” explains Kanaly. He hopes as well that the consumer who has become comfortable with the fee-only concept will “understand the difference between those who are fee-only all the time [like NAPFA], and those who are fee-only only part of the time,” he says.

As for reaction to the new name throughout the NAPFA-member community, Kanaly believes that advisors are “embracing it,” though news comes at a time when advisors are recovering from April 15 and many are on vacation, so the verdict is not yet in.

At NAPFA’s national conference, to be held May 15-19 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, a position paper will be available outlining the trade group’s new programs and initiatives, as well as its goals and plans for the future, “what we’re proposing to do to lead the industry into the 21st Century,” as Kanaly puts it. He expects a record turnout, and already has signed on a record-breaking number of vendors–or “resource partners”–for the annual event.

NAPFA is seeking as members a “broad group of qualified, eclectic thinkers, whether CFPs, CPAs, or PFSs,” says Kanaly, adding that it’s not easy to become a NAPFA-Registered Advisor. There are stringent membership requirements, which include detailed advisor reports submitted to NAPFA’s membership committee. “We’re picky about whose report qualifies,” says Kanaly. The committee also pores over a prospective advisor’s ADV data. The time spent on these various tasks is given as a significant reason for the “holdups” regarding the admittance of new members to the NAPFA roster. Membership is about 770. “We’re trying to grow it, and accelerate the process,” says Kanaly, “but only to the extent that we can meet the criteria and the qualifications and the integrity of the people who have already passed that process.”


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