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FPA-Kitces Debate Over Schweiss, Membership Roars On

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The Financial Planning Association is standing by its recent decision to tap TD Ameritrade executive Skip Schweiss as its new president-elect. It also has clarified figures for its membership decline over the past decade and says it has not “banned” popular blogger and planner Michael Kitces from some events, as Kitces has said.

On Wednesday, the FPA chose Schweiss, president of TD Ameritrade Trust Co. as well as managing director of advisor advocacy and industry affairs for TD Ameritrade Institutional, to be president-elect for 2020 and president in 2021. Schweiss is not a certified financial planner.

“Skip is an extraordinarily skilled leader with unquestionable character and integrity who has been an unwavering supporter and advocate of the financial planning profession, the CFP marks and an unambiguous fiduciary standard of care,” FPA said in a statement Monday. 

In addition, it explained, Schweiss “is uniquely skilled to help lead FPA through some of the exciting transformational changes we’re engaged in … . All board members speak with one voice, and in the unusual circumstance where there is a conflict of interest on a particular issue, they are required to recuse themselves from engaging in that issue.”

Kitces opposes Schweiss’ election in part on the grounds that TD Ameritrade opposes a uniform fiduciary standard, while FPA supports such a standard.

Schweiss will serve a one-year term beginning Jan. 1, succeeding Martin Seay, who will replace Evelyn Zohlen as president.

In a blog post on ThursdayKitces criticized Schweiss’ new role, stating that “if the FPA is finally going to get back on track again, and get its chapters growing with CFP professionals, a good [starting point] would be to keep the board actually focused on CFP professionals … not … to be led by a representative from a multi-million dollar corporate sponsor that espouses opposing advocacy views.”

He also asked in a reply to a comment: “Simply put, if the FPA is not willing to apply the requirements of a fiduciary obligation to itself (even and especially when it’s hard), how can the FPA ever maintain the credibility to advocate that a fiduciary duty be imposed on others?”

Membership Woes?

The FPA says its current membership is 22,221 and that it “tend[s] to fluctuate from the mid-22,000s to the mid-23,000s depending on the time of year.”

This level is down over 21% from 28,000, which is where it stood in 2007.

 “[I]f the FPA could have just maintained the market share of CFP professionals it had when it was formed 20 years ago, the FPA would literally be more than double its current size,” Kitces wrote in the blog post.

The FPA responded in a comment: “This drop in membership coupled with the dramatically changing landscape for volunteer professional associations generally, and the financial planning landscape specifically, is why FPA is working hard to implement the OneFPA Network.”

In his blog, Kitces reminded advisors and others: “Not surprisingly, given the FPA’s history of chapter autonomy and a long-standing concern that the national organization is out of touch with its chapters, the OneFPA Network rollout met with a significant backlash from members and chapter leaders, forcing the FPA just a few months later to roll back most of its planned changes.”

Regarding another issue over which the FPA and Kitces disagree, the organization is insisting that “no one was ‘banned’ from the annual Chapter Leaders Conference. … It is not an event that is open to general membership.”

Kitces said on Twitter that his “banning” from the conferenceWasn’t about the OneFPA Network. This happened several years ago, after I publicly criticized FPA for not focusing (at the time) on CFP professionals and the fact that it was losing market share of them. (Alas only worse since). He said the move came after he published an article called  “Could The FPA’s Waning Power Given Its Declining Market Share Of CFP Certificants Lead To Its Untimely Demise?” 

He explained further via email with ThinkAdvisor late Monday, “After I wrote a criticism of the FPA Leadership in late 2014 and then repeated the conversations in mid-2016, I was told that my registration for the Chapter Leaders Conference would no longer be accepted.”

The blogger and planner notes that he attended the event for six years, despite the fact that he was not a chapter-leader member. Kitces adds that the FPA’s 2016 attendance policy for the event appears to have affected just him: At the time, “I was the only person registering for an attending the conference as a non-chapter-leader member.”


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