The FPA's conference focuses on responsibility, education and teamwork.

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) has been on a mission to advance and enhance the professional status of the planning profession, and that was made abundantly clear in the kickoff of its annual convention.

In his opening remarks at the FPA's Success Forum 2003, held November 1-4 in Philadelphia, FPA President David Yeske told attendees that the responsibilities associated with being a planner couldn't be greater.

With many practitioners "adopting the name of 'financial planner' without committing themselves to the process," he added, it's more important than ever that FPA members differentiate themselves through quality of service and professionalism.

"We deal with some of the most powerful forces in people's lives-as powerful or more powerful than those of any other profession," Yeske said. "The forces we deal with are all-pervasive."

He urged FPA members to embrace the role of fiduciary in their clients' affairs-whether the law stipulates it or not-and to face up to the responsibility, as well as liability, that goes with such a role.

"Financial planning has the power to transform lives," he said.

Once the opening remarks were done, attendees turned to the nitty gritty-attending workshops, passing out business cards, perusing exhibitor booths and stuffing their complimentary shoulder bags with printouts, charts, books, brochures and notes.

Preliminary head counts put attendance at approximately 2,700, which about matched the number of people who attended the FPA's convention in New Orleans a year ago, said FPA spokeswoman Heather Almand. The event revolved around dozens of educational sessions, following seven tracks covering topics in practice management, estate and tax planning, investment and risk management, among others. In response to member requests, the FPA also added a series of sessions dealing with issues of concern to practitioners in Canada.

Each day also included a keynote speaker, the first of whom, branding consultant Harry Beckwith, offered attendees advice on how to market and grow a business.

The pillars of any plan, he told them, are price, brand, the "packaging" of products and services and client relationships. Jokingly telling the audience that a $30 pair of socks feels a lot better than a discount brand, Beckwith said planners shouldn't be bashful about the prices they charge clients.