“Why,” asked a noted advisor, “is there not more of a buzz about these regulatory changes that will affect all our lives?” After a few more interchanges, the advisor, whose identity will remain unspoken because this was a casual conversation, answered his own question. “It’s because we’re all so busy” running our practices and serving clients, he said. This conversation took place on a Chicago night during the NAPFA national conference and highlighted the still precarious advocacy standing of the independent advisor.
In case you haven’t noticed, this is conference season for advisors. Just within the late April to early June time frame, there are national conferences being held by IMCA, Envestnet, the FPA, the ICI, Raymond James and Pershing. That’s not counting events like the CFA Institute’s national confab that ran concurrent with NAPFA in the Windy City. While the leaders of the groups and companies sponsoring these gatherings all talked, and likely will talk, about the SEC and FINRA, the state of Dodd-Frank, an SRO for advisors and the fiduciary standard, the buzz at each of these events from advisors themselves was more practical.
The challenge of being an independent advisor is that you’re all running businesses that take up your time and energy. In what remains an era of challenging and volatile markets coupled with a slow-growth economy, and with cautious clients who may have been burned during the 2008-2009 crisis and demand more hand-holding, it might seem like it’s all you can do to keep your head above water.
I encourage you, however—and not for the first or, likely, the last time—to look beyond your own practices and devote part of your precious time to becoming more active with your human capital and your dollars to support your association of choice. No, independent advisors likely never will have the lobbying resources available to the big banks, insurance companies and wirehouses. Yes, you can make a difference with legislators and regulators locally and nationally if you do support FPA, NAPFA and FSI.
In a year when politics both high and low will affect your professional and personal lives and those of your clients, make your voice heard by combining it with your peers’ in a chorus of constituents that those legislators and regulators won’t be able to ignore and which the big institutions won’t be able to drown out with their marketing muscle and PACs. Many of your advisor associations have PACs, too, you know.
You may be worried about your succession plan or where to find your next good employee. You may be concentrating on finding good referrals from your existing clients because the lifeblood of any advisory practice is finding good new clients. You may be focused on where to find investing vehicles and the best money managers to build and protect your clients’ investing or retirement portfolios in challenging times. But I urge you not to ignore the regulatory and political environment in which you’ll be expending all that energy on behalf of your practices and your clients. Get involved. Create buzz. Invest your own lobbying dollars to support your own points of view. It’s the American way, plus it’s a practical way to put your clients’ interests first.