Happy Golden Anniversary! That’s right, 2019 is the 50th year of the professional practice of financial planning as we know it. The movement to formalize and guide the evolution of the profession has thrived in that capacity by driving a commitment to high ethical standards; a devotion to credentialing and advancing knowledge and professionalism; a unified sense of community; advocacy that protects, defends and enhances the profession; and the ability to adapt to the dramatic changes that have been a constant over the decades. It’s a study of this resilience and relevance that strikes a chord with me as our profession crosses its quinquagenary, and as I transition to being chair of the Financial Planning Association (FPA).

From the early days, financial planners have navigated unrelenting turbulence of double-digit inflation, double-dip recessions, grinding bear markets, record setting bulls, historic legislation, wars and revolution, and dynamic investing and planning tools and innovation. Arguably, those were simpler times—although they may not have seemed so at the time. Today, financial planners are juggling the same gyrations of market and economic conditions, but the intensity is magnified by consumerization, globalization, politicization and regulation, product proliferation and commoditization, pricing valuation and constriction, and of course, technological disintermediation. These modern influences are the ingredients of a perfect storm that is disrupting our profession (and the greater financial services industry) and calling into question the financial planners’ value and what the next half century may have in store for the profession.

Industries in the midst of such seismic shifts need a rudder to navigate the choppy waters. For most professions throughout history, associations have traditionally served as that guide―the pivotal epicenter of any professionalized industry, and the professional home for those who serve it. They have been instrumental in influencing industry conditions in order to further member interests. They have established best practices that increase credibility and gain public trust, create a competitive advantage, protect consumers, raise the visibility of the work, and attract a talented workforce. They have been the collective voice, source of enrichment and advancement and life blood of an industry and its membership. That said, futurist Jim Carroll, author of Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, says, "Many associations came together to represent a particular profession, area of interest or sport, or for some other reason. Yet that very reason is changing at a furious pace."

For the financial planning profession, the furious pace of change is evident, and we are fortunate to have powerful associations that have the potential to serve as the tillers that can steer and elevate our profession. Potential is the operative word. The question is, what approaches need to be taken to strengthen our professional associations to activate their potential? In a study by McQuide, Millonzi & Farrell on strengthening associations they recommend two broad areas for associations to focus on:

1. Improving internal structure and organizational effectiveness

2. Strengthening activities

In light of the convergence of influences on our profession, I’m heartened to see the largest of our membership organizations, my professional home, leaning in to usher in sustainable changes through the OneFPA Network initiative. Participatory governance, which will enable FPA to harness its collaborative and diverse culture, and centralizing key functions, which will empower and support volunteer leaders and staff to create an integrated, seamless and enhanced member experience, are the central tenets of the changes FPA’s leaders are considering. These changes address the structural and organizational effectiveness part of the equation, but the strengthening and relevance of activities are where the impact will be felt. Consider the power of a coordinated application of financial and human resources to impact technology development, innovation deployment and knowledge sharing; one voice of advocacy at the federal and state levels; consumer perception, respect and appreciation; social responsibility; experiences whether a member of a small or large chapter at any career stage.                  

As a profession we, as financial planners, are faced with common problems and opportunities that can only be solved and activated on a national scale. In our world where resources are limited, leveraging associations and their benefits is more important than ever. As busy and difficult as carving out time in the day to day is, it’s critical to invest in building our profession, keeping an eye toward the future so that you and our profession are positioned for the next challenge. It’s that fact, at this moment in time, that inspires my appeal. Join the movement that started 50 years ago.

Step up and demonstrate your pride in, and enthusiasm for, what it means to build a true profession. If you are not a member of a professional association, like FPA, join and engage. If you are a member, re-commit and re-engage in its evolution. Our strength and our ability to adapt will always be through our collective voices and our voice as one association. Therefore, this calling is essential to ensure our profession’s purpose and mission to transform lives through the power of financial planning is achieved for the next 50 years.  

Frank Paré, CFP, is the 2019 Chair of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and president of PF Wealth Management Group in Oakland, Calif.

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