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FPA Drops Plan to Merge Into Single Legal Entity

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The Financial Planning Association released the second iteration of its OneFPA Network plan — and the most notable change is that merging into a single legal entity is now “off the table.”

Announced November 2018, the OneFPA Network is an organizational vision to completely restructure the entire association to better align and integrate FPA at all levels.

The goal is for FPA to deliver an elevated member experience, empower the association’s more than 2,000 volunteer leaders, and realize its strategic priorities more effectively.

“We want to make sure that FPA remains a viable strong relevant and impactful organization — not only for current members but for future members as well,” 2019 FPA President Evelyn Zohlen told reporters during a preview of the new plan. “What we’re going to do to accomplish that is we’re going to do a better job of uniting FPA and its communities to greater alignment and integration. We’re still firm believers that’s the way to go.”

In the first iteration, the separate legal entities of the chapters were to be eliminated as a way to better align the association strategically, functionally and culturally. At the time, Zohlen explained that “89 different legal entities with 89 different accounting systems and 89 different technology platforms is not a good business model. It creates unnecessary redundancies, additional administrative burdens for our volunteer leaders, and doesn’t add value for our members.”

However, following a four-month ‘listening tour’ to solicit member and volunteer leader input and feedback that ended mid-February 2019, FPA decided to remove this requirement from the plan.

“The feedback that we received on the idea of merging as a single legal entity did not feel good,” Zohlen told media. “Many, many of our chapters said, ‘This just doesn’t feel right.’”

Zohlen said many of the chapters didn’t feel comfortable relinquishing their separate legal entities at this time.

“That feedback was taken very seriously … and you’ll see in the second iteration of the plan that merging into a single legal entity is off the table,” Zohlen added.

The original draft OneFPA Network vision was based on two key pillars intended to support more integration and alignment — participatory governance and centralized functionality.

The goal of participatory governance is to invite more leadership voices into the strategic direction setting of FPA. The intent of centralized functionality is for all FPA communities to work more effectively together to support an elevated member experience and realize FPA’s strategic objectives.

While these two pillars still play a key role in the Second Iteration of the OneFPA Network Draft Plan, the new plan focuses on four key areas below.

Participatory Governance

FPA plans to institutionalize contributions from more FPA leaders in shaping the present and future of FPA by forming three new groups: the OneFPA Advisory Council, the OneFPA Advisory Council Executive Committee and the OneFPA Nominating Committee.

The OneFPA Advisory Council, which will be made up of a representative from each chapter and three NexGen leaders, will be formed in the fall with the first in-person meeting of this council in November at the Chapter Leaders Conference. The OneFPA Advisory Council Executive Committee, which will consist of seven members from the OneFPA Advisory Council, will be formed by the end of 2019 and act as a liaison between the OneFPA Advisory Council and the FPA Board of Directors.

A OneFPA Nominating Committee, comprising representatives from the board and chapter leaders, will be formed in early 2020.

Beta-Testing Centralized Functionality

FPA plans to first test the idea around centralizing its operational functions in a comprehensive beta-test with up to 10 chapters that will participate in the centralization of technology, accounting/finance and staffing functions.

The chapters will be selected through a comprehensive application process overseen by the OneFPA Transition Task Force. Chapters can apply to be a beta-test chapter beginning July 11, with chapters selected by the task force by Sept. 18.

Beta-testing in the areas of staffing and accounting/finance will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2020, with centralized technology being implemented as components are developed.

Clear goals, key performance indicators and measurements will be established by a third-party consultant and approved by the task force to assess the efficacy of centralized functionality with ongoing comprehensive reports provided to all chapters.

Commitments and Agreements

FPA plans to amend appropriate governance documents to reflect the principles of participatory governance and create a Master Services Agreement as an addendum to the Affiliation Agreement for beta-test chapters that outlines the responsibilities of, and commitment to, beta-test chapters.

The master services agreement will outline the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and affirm the autonomy of beta-test chapters. FPA also plans to increase information sharing among FPA and its chapters through reports on the beta-test experience and the status of FPA finances and strategic priorities.

The master services agreement and key performance indicators to be shared with FPA stakeholders for feedback between June 3 and July 1.

Communications and Timing

FPA established a comment period of 45 days beginning on the release date of the second iteration of the OneFPA Network plan on April 16 and ending on May 30.

FPA also plans to implement a proactive communication strategy to solicit feedback on the modifications to the second iteration of the OneFPA Network Draft Plan.

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