Members of the Financial Planning Association descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday for their inaugural “advocacy day” to not only push for a user-fees bill to help boost advisor exams, but to advocate for regulation of financial planners and to “establish relationships” with lawmakers.
Why have the first lobbying day now, after FPA’s 14 years in existence? “If you’re going to have advocacy as a value driver” in being a member of the FPA, “you have to provide a mechanism” for members to advocate, Michael Branham, FPA’s 2014 chair, said during a Monday press briefing in Washington. “You have to start somewhere.”
Karen Nystrom, director of advocacy for FPA, added during the media briefing that FPA has spent the past year “refocusing on advocacy,” including state-based advocacy efforts, and that the visit to Washington was member driven. “Members have shown us that they want this [Hill visits] and they are ready to engage” with lawmakers.
Indeed, Branham said that the FPA’s first visit to the Hill—which included more than 60 advisors from 21 states—“is about establishing relationships” with lawmakers.
In between Hill meetings on Tuesday, Branham told ThinkAdvisor in an email message that “all of our meetings have been founded in great dialogue and a respectful discussion of the issues. It appears as if we’re providing useful information to elected officials and policy staff.”
“It was an incredible start,” Nystrom added in another email message. “Lots of tired feet and trading of incredible moments at the end of the day.”
FPA, as part of the Financial Planning Coalition — which includes the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards as well as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors — advocates on behalf of about 75,000 advisors, and “we have to be in front of them [Congress] often enough that when it comes to issues around financial planning, they’ll want to hear from us,” Branham said. “We have to be a constant reminder that we are a resource.”
The more than 60 advisors held meetings with 90 legislative offices and with more than 25 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Janet Stanzak, FPA president, said that the Hill visits not only allow members to connect with lawmakers, but give them “education to take back to their [FPA] chapters.” She said that many states held their own advocacy days with state legislators this spring, with more planned for this summer and fall.