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Big Shift at FPA: Tuttle Steps Down, COO Schadle Steps Up

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In May 2012, during the FPA Retreat, Marv Tuttle, the long-serving (and only) executive director and CEO of the Financial Planning Association, signaled his intent to retire in 2014. On Tuesday, the FPA board announced that Tuttle’s resignation has been moved up for family reasons, and that the COO and associate executive director of the largest planners’ group, Lauren Schadle, would assume the post on Oct. 3, just after the FPA’s annual conference concludes in San Antonio. Like Tuttle, Schadle has a long association with the FPA and one of its predecessor organizations, the ICFP, and both hold the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation.

Paul Auslander, FPA’s president, said in an interview Monday that it “might surprise the world, but not us”—meaning the FPA’s board—on “how ready Lauren is to do this job.” Moreover, he pointed out that while Tuttle is stepping down, effective Oct. 2, as CEO, “Marv isn’t going away” and will continue to serve as a resource for the FPA.

Paul AuslanderOriginally, the FPA had said that a search committee would begin its formal work following the FPA board’s annual August retreat, but Auslander (right) said that when the search firm that FPA had consulted suggested that a comprehensive search would take four to six months, “we felt it wouldn’t be fair to Lauren or the staff” or the organization itself to have such an interregnum. “Lauren would have been a finalist” for the position anyway, Auslander said, but during its retreat, the board “had a plan and we executed on it” by naming Schadle as the permanent CEO.

“Lauren has been with us a long time, and she has an amazing level of staff support—those people would run through a truck for her,” Auslander said, and while he admitted to being a “big fan” of Schadle, he insisted the board “took an objective approach” to making the decision, and that she would be treated as would any new CEO. Asked how well FPA’s 23,000 members know Schadle, Auslander said “she has a great reputation among members; Marv is the public face, but most of the emails that members see is from Lauren Schadle; they have had many discussions with her already.”

Further, noting Schadle’s 13 years of experience at FPA and her prior experience as an executive at the ICFP, one of the predecessor organizations of FPA, Auslander argued that “she understands financial planning about as well as any practitioner.”

FPA executive director and CEO Lauren Schadle.In a separate interview on Monday, Schadle (left) noted that she had joined ICFP in 1996, and was with that predecessor organization when it merged with the IAFP in 2000, so her tenure with financial planners will be “16 years in September.” Asked what her priorities will be as CEO of the FPA, Schadle, 45, said that “without a doubt it will be serving our members and delivering superior member value.” She promised that in the group’s “next phase of development we’ll be fine-tuning our business activities” bringing a “disciplined focus—in synch with the board—and action plans to focus on becoming the professional resource and advocate for CFP professionals.”

She promised to “shore up our financial strength and live up to who we are…—rallying around the CFP certification.” Moreover, Schadle said “I have a disciplined business focus—the members who know me will likely agree with that” assessment.

Asked whether she would also focus on growing membership of FPA, which has been an ongoing concern of Tuttle and the FPA board for several years as its membership numbers fell from a high of 29,000 members to its current 23,000, Schadle said that “when membership is growing, people feel a sense of vitality,” but also said that it’s less important to have increased “membership numbers for the sake of membership numbers” alone, but rather to “bring on individuals aligned with the direction that the organization is going.”

She then turned to the importance of FPA’s local chapters, saying another priority of hers would be “helping them to become stronger,” that “we want to be in lockstep with our chapters” and that the chapters would play a key role in growing FPA’s membership rolls. “Membership,” she said “happens at a local level.” One of the values of membership in the FPA, she said, would be practice management, and said she was pleased to see that the CFP Board has proposed new continuing education rules that would give CE credit for practice management education: “FPA national and our chapters will be focused on delivering practice management education,” she pledged.

Asked whether her expressed focus on the CFP designation would suggest that FPA would reach out to larger firms, such as the wirehouses that have large numbers of CFPs but are not members of FPA, Schadle said FPA would “try to find those areas with those large firms who are willing” to enter into dialogue. “We have had conversations with some firms” looking at “areas where we can be in alignment; if not on advocacy, maybe from an educational standpoint.” She promised FPA would conduct “a lot of analysis” on the subject of partnering with the large firms, and while “we won’t compromise our values, we are interested in [exploring] ways to bring the larger CFP community together.”

And what of Marv Tuttle (left)? “I couldn’t spell Iowa before I met that man,” said Auslander, referring to Tuttle’s home state, “but he’s taught me something about that part of the country. Marv’s a wonderful human being; and part of that was knowing when to go,” referring to his decision to take care of his family responsibilities. “Marv’s very transparent, and the FPA has to be as well; I respect him” for his decision.

On a personal note, Auslander said, “I can’t tell you how many times I was going bull-headed into something and Marv tapped me on the shoulder, said ‘take a deep breath’ and then suggested” that Auslander reconsider “what I was going to say” based on Tuttle’s deep knowledge of the history of the FPA and the many issues the group had addressed during its existence.

As for her feelings about Tuttle, 57, stepping down, Schadle noted she had “worked with Marv for a long time—he’s a true visionary, certainly someone who’s been a champion of collaboration; he did that in some challenging times. He’s a dear friend, I wish him all the best and he won’t be too far away.” 

In FPA’s formal statement about the change at the top, Auslander said “Marv Tuttle’s influence extends far beyond FPA and his importance in shaping the profession will be felt for decades to come.  His legacy will be as a true collaborative leader, a steady hand that led many through tumultuous times and part of the foundation and soul of FPA.”

The statement went on to say of Schadle that the FPA board recognized the continuity Schadle will bring to the organization. “Lauren is the perfect combination of operational and strategic savvy; cultural understanding of both FPA and the financial planning community; and the long-standing respect of her staff, peers and professionals.”