Eleven; 27, 100+; 37,000, $8.5 million. While it can be misleading to use numbers to gauge the importance and reach of an organization, these numbers from the Financial Services Institute tell a good tale: 11 years of operation—emanating from the Financial Planning Association; 27 professional staff members in the group; more than 100 independent broker-dealer member firms; 37,000 individual advisor members in FSI; and a 2015 budget of $8.5 million that includes allocations to hire three new advocacy staffers, bringing the total number to 13.
Regarding Dale Brown, we can add another number: nine, for the number of years Brown has found a place on the IA 25.
When asked how the group, and specifically Brown himself, has been able to get the sharply competitive leaders of those 100-plus IBDs to put aside their differences and pull together for the FSI—and just as importantly to help fund the group—he’ll usually say it’s FSI’s “laser-like focus on advocacy.”
In an interview in May for the IA 35 for 35, Brown expanded on how he’s able to get those IBD leaders to beat their competitive swords into cooperative plowshares. “We make sure we work on the right issues that matter to our members, and focus on being effective in impacting those issues.” Brown said. “It doesn’t do our members any good—or the industry—if we’re not focused on effectiveness, so we’re constantly assessing every issue,” asking if the strategy we’re pursuing is going to be “effective in getting results.”
That strategy, to pick the issues on which FSI can be successful, has resonated with the IBD leaders who support FSI with their voices and their pocketbooks. “Our members have seen us deliver,” Brown said, “on being effective and engaged constructively and for the long haul” with regulators, legislators on Capitol Hill and the states. When told that Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly had said recently that while he and Raymond James had certain reactions to the Department of Labor fiduciary proposals, before commenting publicly he wanted to see what “our partners” at FSI thought about the proposal, Brown said, “your point is spot on. What we’ve been able to build with our members is a constant collaborative effort where they can rely on us for critical intelligence and follow our lead on how to have a positive impact” on advocacy efforts. “They have to be engaged right alongside us in the advocacy process.”