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NAPFA's Vision

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In a few months, NAPFA chair Steve Kanaly will hand over the reins of the fee-only financial planning organization to Michael Joyce, 42, a current NAPFA board member and head of Michael Joyce & Associates in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Assistant Managing Editor Karen Hansen Weese spoke in late April with Joyce and NAPFA CEO Ellen Turf at the organization’s annual conference in Reno about Joyce’s goals for the organization in the coming year and the challenges ahead.

How did you first become acquainted with NAPFA?

Joyce: I was working in Denver as a bond trader for First Interstate Bank of Denver, when my then-fianc?e–now my wife–got a job offer in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So we moved there. There isn’t much opportunity to be a bond trader in Bethlehem, so I started working for a fee-only financial planning firm. I worked there for about three years, and I remember that when I asked [the owner] about NAPFA, he said, “You don’t want to join that: Those people are zealots!” And this was a true fee-only guy [saying this]! So I didn’t join. Then in 1993, he decided to take a job with Prudential Securities, so I started my own firm, and then I looked into joining NAPFA and went to a couple of NAPFA events.

I was really blown away by all these people who were quite willing to share all this stuff that I didn’t know with me. And that’s still how the organization is today. Earlier today I was telling a member that the contacts and some of the people I’ve met and some of the things they’ve shared with me are really what have made my business what it is today. I can’t minimize what NAPFA has meant for my business. I get a lot more out of it than I put into it. NAPFA members are really the top people in the whole industry, and I wouldn’t have met them and wouldn’t have access to them if it weren’t for NAPFA.

How long will your term as chair be, and when do you start?

Joyce: I start on August 31; it will be a yearlong term.

Will you become a chair emeritus after that?

Joyce: No. We used to have a chair emeritus, but we don’t now.

Turf: We tried it one year, and it really didn’t work well. We reconfigured the governance structure, and that’s when we started the chair-elect and chair positions. It’s a more comfortable progression, a learning year for the chair-elect, and then they step into the chair role.

Do you have specific goals for the growth of NAPFA during your term?

Joyce: On a percentage basis, we’ve had really tremendous growth. And I think we have a lot of traction right now. We’re at a point where we have a lot of people who want to be like us, and we have many people who want to join NAPFA for various reasons, not the least of which is the consumer referral system–which, I believe, in absolute numbers, probably produces more referrals than any other financial planning or financial advisory organization, let alone on a relative basis. We’re going to do our strategic planning in July, so this is not really the board saying this–I think that we could continue on a 10%-20% growth path for adding new members.

In many ways, we are an organization that has the best financial advisors in the industry. If you look at the Worth magazine list [of the top 250 advisors in the nation], it’s really dominated by people in NAPFA, this 950-member organization. And I really want us, from top to bottom, to be the organization of excellence. One of our core values is competency, and a lot of the focus over our first 20 years has been on the compensation piece. But just because you’re fee-only, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re competent.

What do you see as the challenges ahead for NAPFA during the next year?

Joyce: We are now setting up a strategic plan with the board of directors on a visionary level, instead of setting up a strategic plan as a to-do list, because, frankly, the NAPFA office can handle a lot of those issues. Ellen is the CEO, and she can carry out the tactical decisions. So we’re acting more as an organization should, and more as a board should. It may not be as visible to the consumer press, or even to the press at all, but it is really important in establishing a building block for this organization to grow and face the next 20 years. Over the past 20 years, we have done a great job, for an organization our size, in communicating and getting our message out to the financial consumer.

It’s a legacy of Steve Kanaly’s chairmanship that we’ve done a great job in communicating with our members. There was such a focus on communicating to the financial press that I don’t know if there was a great job done in communicating with our members. We need to clearly communicate our vision, and our strategy, to all our constituencies [the public, the press, and NAPFA members]. That has happened over the past couple of years, and something I certainly hope will continue.