With future regulation of the financial services industry up in the air, a recent poll by the Financial Planning Association of its members shows a preference for a professional regulatory organization (PRO) rather than oversight by a self-regulatory organization (SRO).

The poll results released today come just two weeks after the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled its 212-page report, Blueprint For A Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure, that among things recommends that separate laws governing U.S. brokers and registered investment advisors be merged since brokers and advisors offer similar services to retail customers.

Many people interpret that to mean that regulatory oversight of financial advisors might shift from the Securities Exchange Commission to an SEC-sponsored SRO, and industry scuttlebutt has fingered the likely candidate to be the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA), the organization that regulates brokers.

According to nearly 2,000 responses from FPA members, 61% said they would need more information before supporting an SEC-sponsored SRO, while 23% supported an SRO for financial planners and investment advisers and 14% were opposed.

When asked if they would support FINRA as the designated SRO, 36% said they would need more information, while 39% said no and 23% said yes.

And when asked whether they would support an SEC-proposed PRO, and that PRO was the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, 23% said they would need more information, while 63% said yes and 14% said no.

"The survey suggests financial planners are in a wait-and-see mode in this early stage of the SRO debate," said Duane Thompson, managing director of FPA's Washington office. "They have plenty of questions. They are very concerned about the potential for excessive regulation with an SRO. But if one were proposed, the survey suggests they would prefer professional regulation by the CFP Board as financial planners, not as investment advisers under an SRO, particularly an SRO administered by FINRA."

In other areas, the FPA poll showed that 70% are in favor of the SEC's proposed plain-English narrative disclosure form to replace the current Form ADV Part II. On the legislative agenda, the top priority was supporting the licensing of financial planning as a profession, followed by opposing state sales taxes on financial services. Other priorities for financial planners include supporting the retention of 12b-1 fees, uniform regulation of advisers between SEC and state rules, and making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent.

The online survey was sent to 26,530 members between March 31 and April 11, 2008, with 1,893 responses.