Perhaps this year more than most in recent memory, current events underscore the fact that membership in a professional association can help an advisor develop not only professionally, but personally as well. If you were an advisor who lived and worked in the areas so hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, members of your association may have helped you find a place to live or work after a flight from the disaster, or even new, more permanent space to continue your business. Maybe you were the provider of space for another member who was displaced by the storm.

For the majority of planners who were not directly affected by the hurricane, membership has its classic attractions: credentials, contact with one’s peers, mentors for less experienced advisors, continuing professional development and education, information about best practices, career opportunities in the industry, referrals, and help keeping up with what’s new–new techniques, standards, technology, regulations, and changes in tax, securities, and other laws that directly affect an advisor’s business.

Associations can give advisors a very good idea of how well they are doing compared to their peers–and often provide practice management guidance about how to make improvements that could yield a material difference to their bottom line.

This year IA has begun to collect more specific demographic information on age, gender, and ethnic background so that we can start to track diversity trends within the industry. It is our hope that as we see where the industry is headed demographically, we can sharpen our focus and serve our readers by providing them with the most relevant information. Some noteworthy items came up in this round of surveys.

One trend we are following is the number of women working in the financial industry. Several industry associations track this information, and we saw the percentage of women as members of these associations range from a low of 15.3% to a high of 24.2%. Heather Almand, director of public relations at the Financial Planning Association in Denver, reports that the percentage of women in FPA’s membership has been fairly consistent over the last six years. Virginia Jo Dunlap, director of external relations at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, also in Denver, says that 23.46% of certificants are women, and for the past five years the number has consistently been in a similar range. We will be watching this closely over the next several years.

The age of advisors is another trend that we are watching. Philip Palaveev, senior manager at Moss Adams LLP, an accounting and consulting firm based in Seattle, has been tracking demographic trends for years. He says that the younger generation is far more interested in financial planning and the investment advisory business than ever before. In fact, he says they are “quite a force, and the future of the industry.” Part of the reason, according to Palaveev, is that a growing number of “schools are offering financial planning as a track,” so young adults are graduating with the basic professional and client relationship management skills they need in order to start a career as a planner.

In addition, Palaveev says he is seeing changes in the way independent advisors structure and run their businesses. Five years ago, he says, a typical independent firm was one owner and one administrative person. Now he sees a trend toward “investment advisory firms that are larger and more sophisticated, and many firms that are multigeneration.” The new independent firms typically comprise multiple owners sharing resources and realizing some economies of scale.

Most associations reported increased membership, with sharp growth at The CFA Institute (formerly known as AIMR), based in Charlottesville, Virginia, up from 43,881 members five years ago to 77,178 current members. The Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA), in Greenwood Village, Colorado, reported that its membership more than doubled since 2000, jumping from 2,604 members five years ago to 5,584 members this year.

Two associations reported fewer members this year. NAIFA shed 10,000 members, going from a membership of 75,000 five years ago to 65,000 members this year. The Society of Financial Service Professionals, with headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, dropped from 23,600 members five years ago to 20,000 members this year.

Some associations reported name changes. The Fee Advisors Network, in Troy, Michigan, was formerly known as the Fee Planners Network. As of January 1 of this year, The National Association of Family Wealth Counselors (NAFWC) and The National Association of Philanthropic Planners (NAPP) merged. The new entity, based in Morgantown, Indiana, is named the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy (AIP).

There seems to be an association for every kind of financial professional. The IA research staff, led by Research Editor Liana Roberts, surveyed financial associations listed here to gather the information included in this directory.

For a complete directory of The 2005 Associations Directory, please click here

Staff Editor Kate McBride can be reached at kmcbride@investmentadvisor.com.