In this issue, Editor-at-Large Andy Gluck takes a fascinating look at how the association landscape in the financial planning profession has evolved over the last decade. Unless you are the Financial Planning Association, it's a pretty picture.

The Financial Services Institute (FSI), the Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA) and the CFA Institute have all enjoyed impressive growth. In contrast, the FPA has experienced a 15% decline in membership to 23,687 over the last five years.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Back in 1999 when the Inter­national Association For Financial Planning merged with the Institute Of Certified Financial Planners, the 28,000-member strong organization was supposed to be able to speak with one voice and give this emerging profession increased clout in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

Then in 2003, the FPA decided to spin off its broker-dealer division. At the time, the move seemed sensible. Financial planning was coming into its own as a profession and didn't have to rely on vendors to prop it up, as it did in the 1980s. Broker-dealers and advisors had conflicting agendas and some had argued for a spin-off years earlier.

Despite their policy differences, other brokerages had supported the FPA and were content to let the association speak for advisors while they let other broker-dealer-centric organizations with deeper pockets represent them in Washington.

As Gluck writes, the FPA leadership didn't expect the FSI to look to expand beyond the ranks of B-D executives. But I distinctly recall several B-D executives who were miffed and felt the FPA had jilted them discussing that openly in late 2003.

In its early years, the FSI focused primarily on serving the needs of B-D executives and building its foundation as an association. But since 2007, when it had 5,228 members, the organization has nearly tripled in size to the point where its membership is more than 60% of the FPA's. In 2005, it was only 10%.

Some of the FSI's growth has come at the expense of the FPA, a fact that FPA officials acknowledge. The FPA's stance on a fiduciary mandate for anyone giving financial advice is honorable and principled (and, in my opinion, right), but it has rankled some registered reps. Others have questioned the FPA's focus. As Gluck notes, the FPA's membership is also aging so some folks are simply retiring.

In the meantime, other associations like IMCA and the CFA Institute have grown dramatically by targeting many of their events and programs on investments. Fully 29% of the CFA Institute's 48,025 members now manage private client assets.

In late 2009, I was speaking to a B-D executive who said he had been approached by the FPA to become more involved in the association. "We never asked to leave," he remarked wryly.