There’s a tendency among small businesspeople who share the same interests to come together for fellowship, networking, and to gain the economies of scale, for everything from software to marketing materials, that membership in a larger organization can provide. That’s certainly true of advisor associations. More than ever, though, the professional associations that cater to financial planners and investment advisors in all their iterations (see our annual directory that follows) are having a meaningful impact outside the planning community itself, among consumers, in the courts, and on Capitol Hill. Below are some thumbnail sketches of what some of the groups you may already belong to are planning in the months and years ahead.
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) continues to be the voice of the fee-only financial advisor, insisting on fiduciary conduct and complete disclosure of all fees. “NAPFA is an interesting organization because even as far back as 1983, the group that formed the organization had a mission, and we’ve never veered from it in all these years,” notes CEO Ellen Turf. “We just came off of [the NAPFA Board's annual] strategic planning,” notes Turf, during which “we reaffirmed that we will stay the course, that the organization is strong, and that we will continue to see membership grow at 10% a year.”
In fact, membership has doubled in the last five years, Turf says. Projects NAPFA is working on include the “Focus on Fiduciary” campaign, designed to educate consumers about what it means to work with a fiduciary, and NAPFA University, which is a platform where an advisor can get education beyond that required to get a CFP. “We also started another project, called the MIX (Management Information Exchanges) group, which is a peer-to-peer support group,” says Turf. “That’s been highly successful; we now have 14 groups.” Groups have highly confidential face-to-face meetings twice a year, and then conference calls every month or every other month.
Investment Management Consultants Association
Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Denver, the Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA) has more than 6,700 members, up 50% since 2003. Starting in September 2007, IMCA began offering a new designation–the Chartered Private Wealth Advisor. Candidates who attain the designation will gain an advanced expertise in the life cycle of wealth, including accumulating, preserving and protecting, and distributing it. “Over the past few years, we have been noticing that our members’ clients have been asking more complex and sophisticated questions,” says executive director Dede Pahl. “Now we’re moving into protecting and distributing wealth, as opposed to just accumulating wealth.” In 2008, IMCA will offer two Chartered Private Wealth Advisor programs at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business “Then, we’ll launch it in a bigger way in about 18-24 months,” she adds. According to Pahl, the challenge for most advisors is staying on top of the information that they need to help their clients. “The sophistication of the investment market is moving rapidly, and so we are trying to provide our members with access to the most leading edge research and education as possible,” she says.