"Building relationships and exploring possibilities," is how Mark Johannessen described his agenda as FPA president on a recent visit to the Investment Advisor offices in Hoboken, New Jersey. Accompanied by the association's CEO, Marv Tuttle, Johannessen noted that he doesn't expect much to happen on Capitol Hill until the next Congress is seated in January, but that in the interim he and association staffers have been attempting to build relationships with key Congressional aides, legislators, and representatives of other associations with common goals, such as AARP.
Johannessen cited the recent blueprint proposals from Treasury Secretary Paulson as an example of something that won't see any real action for some time. "It may be the beginning of a framework for discussion, but whatever ultimately comes is going to be significantly different," he predicted.
The other item that's big for the FPA and was addressed by both executives is the establishment of a "standard of care" for financial professionals. There's been a significant amount of discussion about the issue on www.fpanet.org, and on a recent conference call, 395 members dialed in to take part.
"It may sound idealistic, but if you could establish a standard of care that all of our members would be willing to live with, whether they were CFP certificants or somebody who espouses to be a financial planner and says 'I will treat the customers under these five standards,'" Johannessen enthused. "I could ultimately see a day, if we do this right, where all financial services professionals might have to sign off on that standard of care. Wouldn't it be cool if we could create that?"
Among the steps that FPA has taken toward establishing that goal is opening up its membership to more than just financial planners, although planner would always be the largest group. "We've been looking at the idea of including associated professionals, whether they're estate attorneys, tax specialists, or even business coaches, which is a group we've seen become a lot more important to planners," explained Tuttle. "We're trying to represent within FPA the team that the financial planner might lead."
Tuttle also talked about FPA's outreach to broker/dealers and other large firms about bringing a culture of financial planning to their organizations. "What we're shooting for is to meet demand with supply and I don't think the independent market can totally deliver on that," he said. "We need to have major firms involved and we need new approaches to deliver financial planning."