Only days after he testified at the Senate Special Committee on Aging on the duties of financial advice givers, Financial Planning Association President Nicholas Nicolette drew spontaneous applause at the opening general session of the FPA’s annual conference September 8 when he said “we need to take a stand on issues like the suit against the SEC” over the broker/dealer exemption rule. “When I say I am a financial planner,” Nicolette proclaimed, “it’s not what I do, but who I am.”
In his testimony before the Congressional panel, a video clip from which was played before his speech, Nicolette noted that the FPA’s “position on consumer protection is as simple as it is unwavering: financial planners have a fiduciary duty to their clients. Put another way, we are obliged to act in the best interests of our clients–even if it is to our own detriment. There is no higher standard.”
He also stressed in his testimony the “client-centered” approach typified by FPA members and CFPs, contrasting it with the “product-centered” approach practiced by many who in particular claim to be experts in providing advice to older citizens. Only one other representative of a planner’s group testified before the Special Committee, and the president of that group–the Society of Certified Senior Advisors–came under withering fire, particularly from Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, for its less-than-stringent approach to certification (see the lead story in the Retirement Planning section).
In his welcoming speech at the conference, Nicolette said that “the public deserves a unified standard of care,” and received more spontaneous applause when he said “we need to change the antiquated regulatory system.”