If you want to build a profession, you need fiery visionaries and tub-thumping evangelists who can energize the grass roots. You need folks with specific technical knowledge and contacts among legislators and the profession’s regulators.
You also need someone like Marv Tuttle, who headed the Financial Planning Association from 2004 until his retirement in 2012, but who has been a quiet, conciliatory force—with a steel backbone and clear-eyed ethics—in forging the profession beginning way back in 1983 when he became communications director for the ICFP.
Tuttle’s vision and guidance was seen in the successful merger of the ICFP and IAFP to form the FPA in 2000, but also in multiple FPA moves that served to build the profession—and better serve clients—even if it meant FPA itself could suffer some financial and membership consequences. In writing about Tuttle at the time of his retirement, IA Editor-at-Large Bob Clark said that naming “Marv as CEO was the smartest thing any financial planning association has done in the 30 years I’ve been observing the profession,” and concluded that Tuttle’s crowning achievement was his ability to bring together FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board into the Coalition for Financial Planning, “which someday could form the basis of a cohesive advisory profession.”
In a May interview, Tuttle deflected such praise, noting that without “so many volunteer leaders, the profession wouldn’t have gotten” to where it is today. Financial planning “could be and is an honorable profession,” though without the “patience and hard work” exhibited by FPA’s leadership and others since the early 1980s, financial planners could still be considered “no better than used car salespeople.”
While other professions like medicine, law and accounting “took a much longer time to develop,” the planning profession’s development, Tuttle pointed out “has been compressed into 50 or 60 years.”
So what are the elements of a profession? “It was things like ascribing to a code of ethics and a desire to be regulated” that allowed the profession to form, but “also, one of the things I’m most proud of, was the willingness to give back, to help others” exhibited by financial planning practitioners.
The “planning community raised it a notch or two or three in terms of public service,” especially after 9/11. “Most of FPA’s chapter community is involved in pro bono” work, he reported, providing planning services to the military, women’s shelters and Junior Achievement to name but a few. “It took an awful event like 9/11 to kickstart” that effort, Tuttle said, and he gave kudos to the Foundation for Financial Planning, “which has done a wonderful job” providing “the core of how those services are funded.”
“In the early days,” Tuttle recalled, it was a challenge “just building trust within the key centers of influence—government, media—that financial planning could be a legitimate profession.” One development that helped in gaining that legitimacy was having FPA leaders and “mainstream” planners who “knew what they were talking about” in conversations with government and the media. The consumer media in particular “now looks at planners as great resources,” he said.
The profession’s development was helped by the fact that on both the professional and volunteer levels, “at the ICFP and the FPA, the right leaders came at the right time.” And the volunteer leaders saw their participation “as a significant honor, though they had to give up” much of their time to do so, mentioning in particular leaders like Dave Yeske, Dan Moisand and Elizabeth Jetton.