The following is a response from the Financial Planning Association (FPA) to the April 4, 2016 guest article in Financial Advisor magazine by John Guy titled, “A Broker Turned Advisor's Perspective On The Fiduciary Standard.”
John Guy served the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the International Association of Financial Planners (IAFP)—a predecessor organization of FPA—in several capacities at the national and local levels. For that service, we are grateful. However, we cannot let the misconceptions in his April 4, 2016 article titled, “A Broker Turned Advisor's Perspective On The Fiduciary Standard,” go unaddressed.
We believe it’s a sad day when we assume that a profession cannot be built based on placing the client’s interests first. Other noble professions that are recognized by law have done so and we should expect nothing less from the financial planning profession. Instead of defining the financial planning profession by the business practices that currently exist, which may limit the ability for professionals to embrace a fiduciary standard of care, perhaps we should not accept the status quo and insist that business practices conform to the most basic principle of service that more than 95 percent of consumers say they expect from their financial planning professional—that their interests come first. Is this principle such an outrageous stance? For the benefit of the profession and the public, we think not.
We understand that moving the profession from its current position to a place where financial planners are fiduciaries is a very steep hill to climb, but we believe it is worth the journey, and we don’t accept the premise that it is a “plausible impossibility” as Mr. Guy asserts. We need to look no further than to those firms that are already putting into place procedures and protocols to comply fully with the DOL fiduciary rule.
We are not naive in believing that business morality can be legislated in a way that insures that consumers are protected at all times from “the jerks among us.” However, we believe it is naive and misguided on Mr. Guy’s part to postulate that appropriate regulation has no role in consumer awareness and protection.
FPA has and will continue to be a leader in advancing the financial planning profession both for the benefit of practitioners and the consumers they serve. In doing so, we can agree with the sentiment that “dissent is valuable.” FPA has always been a collaborative community that welcomes a diverse group of practitioners that run the gamut of backgrounds, business models and opinions. FPA is driven by a set of values and policies—not by the number of members we have. While we certainly welcome all who want to participate in building this profession, we will never take a path that compromises our values to simply secure more members. Membership in FPA is a choice, not a requirement; therefore, our members represent the leaders of the profession, which far outweighs a simplistic numerical measure of FPA's importance and influence.
We are proud of the more than 24,000 members of our community and over 1,000 volunteer leaders from coast-to-coast who are committed to advancing the profession and give so much of their time and passion for the right reasons.
Pamela Sandy, CFP
2016 FPA President