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FSI’s First FA Conference Attracting Attendees, High-Profile Speakers

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When Chris Paulitz started planning the Financial Services Institute’s inaugural conference he wanted to set it apart from others.

“We decided that this conference has to be unique compared to all the other conferences out there,” said Paulitz of the conference for financial advisors scheduled for September. “One of the ways we did that,” said Paulitz, senior vice president for membership and marketing for the independent broker-dealer group, “is that only financial advisors would create the conference” agenda. Ten members of FSI’s advisor council were chosen to program the conference, he says, ensuring that “the majority of what they get at this conference they can’t get elsewhere.”

So far, reports Paulitz, “well more than 200” advisors have registered and paid for their attendance, a number that he expects to increase as the conference draws nearer, citing the intent of a number of independent broker-dealers to pay for some of their representatives to attend the conference, which runs from the evening of Sept. 9 to midday Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Hilton. “Some are paying part of the registration fee; some are paying the whole fee, some are even paying” for their advisors’ airfare and hotel accommodations.”

Moreover, he expects that some IBD reps will decide to join FSI prior to the FSI Financial Advisor Summit to get the discounted member rate.

A highlight of the conference will be the appearance of Phyllis Borzi (left), the assistant secretary of the Department of Labor’s EBSA, who will be interviewed on stage by Dale Brown, CEO of the FSI, and who will also take questions from attendees at a Sept. 10 session.

Borzi is leading DOL’s fiduciary reproposal for retirement plan advice, which is expected to be issued in October. The issue is of particular concern to FSI and its independent broker-dealer and 35,000 advisor members, though Paulitz worried that “most people don’t get” the impact of the DOL’s upcoming ruling “that they won’t be able to charge commissions” on retirement plans. “To her credit,” Paulitz says, “she wants to be sure that our members can interact with her.”

Other general session speakers include retired Marine General Peter Pace, NEFE President Ted Beck, and ChangeLabs’ CEO Peter Sheahan.

There are three tracks in the conference program, Paulitz reports, “yourself, your business, and your community.” Stressing that “we’re not competing with other broker-dealer conferences,” the conference’s Business track will include succession planning and practice management sessions, but also “how to read body language, looking at advisors’ websites–what you’re doing right and wrong” and even an advisor’s clothing choices: “What are you wearing? What does that convey?” asks Paulitz, to clients and prospects.

The Yourself track will include advice on how advisors can stay healthy, how to care for their own aging parents, and how to achieve a “better work-life balance–all which will better your business” as well, he says.

The Community track will focus on how advisors can get more involved in their communities, including looks at how regulation “changes your community,” how to run for public office, and a panel of advisors who’ve won philanthropic awards. There’s an “altruistic side and a business side for being involved in your community,” Paulitz points out.

In addition to the standard education and networking, attendees will be able to get free professional headshots from a photographer and “free website strategy” advice, along with “collateral to help FAs sell the value of independence to existing and prospective clients that has been  “FINRA reviewed.”

A panel of trade press editors and a public relations professional will discuss the best ways get press coverage (this writer will participate in that panel,) and attendees will receive discounted “one-on-one image consultations” by consultant Jane Seaman during the conference.

“The real purpose of this summit is to grow the engagement” of FSI’s members, says Paulitz, which he characterizes as the “voice of one through the strength of many,” which he said will come in handy “when this rule from DOL comes out.”