With financial reform at the forefront in Washington, D.C., and the issue of ethics a hot topic among advisors, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) at its annual meeting in May elected a new chairperson. NAPFA is an advocate of the fiduciary standards as laid out in the Investment Advisors Act of 1940–and it’s something the fee-only group started doing long before Congress took up the fiduciary issue in its current session.
NAPFA tapped Susan John, a certified financial planner and president of Financial Focus Inc. of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, as its new leader at the annual meeting in Chicago. John will take over the chairperson’s post for 2010-11 starting September 1, replacing William Baldwin, the 2009-10 chairperson.
Another New Englander, Bill Baldwin is president of Pillar Financial Advisors in Waltham, Massachusetts. A financial planner for over 25 years, Baldwin co-founded Pillar in 1986. He holds degrees in accounting, law, and taxation, and counsels clients on financial planning issues such as asset allocation, investing, estate planning, and tax strategies.
John became a CFP in 1989 and joined NAPFA a year later. She currently chairs the group’s industry issues committee, which formulates positions for the organization. John’s key issues include continued advocacy of the Act of 1940 and collaboration with NAPFA’s partners in the Coalition for Financial Planning.
During a press tour in New York on Thursday, July 15, John and Baldwin met with Advisor Media Group associate editor Joyce Hanson for breakfast–just hours before the financial reform bill passed in Washington–to talk about the transition of NAPFA’s leadership and its focus over the next year now that financial reform has become a reality in Congress.
Q: Tell me about NAPFA’s membership. Is membership growing?
Baldwin: NAPFA’s membership includes 1,400 fee-only, registered financial advisors. Overall, we have 2,300 members, including corporate firms, industry affiliates, and student and academic memberships. Membership did grow in the double digits for a number of years, but it has actually tapered off in the last couple of years. It tracks the troubles in the markets, but it’s still positive growth. Our membership this year is approximately 100 members larger than the year before. We’re happy to be growing at a small level. With a small membership, new members are attracted one by one through other members.
Q: And now you’re transitioning to a new chair.
Baldwin: Little transition is needed. Susan has been a member since long before I was. She and her business partner at that time introduced me to the organization in the 1990s. She has served on the national board previous to this, and now she has served another three years on the board. She has a lot of corporate memory, more so than me. She knows and understands the organization and its objectives and the goings-on with the office staff in Chicago.
Q: It sounds like you’re ready to hit the ground running, Susan. What do you see as being NAPFA’s focus during your upcoming 2010-11 tenure?
John: We’ve been actively involved with the Coalition group in helping to frame the new regulation and advancing the profession of financial planning. [Editor's Note: NAPFA is one of three groups in the Coalition for Financial Planning along with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the Financial Planning Association.] A lot of what we’ll focus on in the next year will be as a result of whatever legislation and rules fall out of that. We may have to make some big changes in the way we serve our members depending upon what those rules and regulations happen to be.
Q: What do you anticipate those changes to be?