NAPFA advisors, according to O’Brien, are spending less time discussing clients’ asset allocations and more time talking to them about how they feel about money, how to manage their household budget, how to sign up for employee benefits and how to pay down consumer and student loan debt. NAPFA advisors are delivering this advice less often by traditional means like the quarterly or annual meeting and more often via video chat services like Skype or Zoom, recorded digital videos like those on YouTube, in generalized messages via blogs and in short, personal messages delivered via e-mail, NAPFA officials said.

A lot of these changes are being implemented with NAPFA advisors’ next generation of clients in mind, they added.

“Going into an office with a big oak table and with people wearing suits and ties probably isn’t what the next generation of clients wants,” said Brown. “These clients want to enter an office where they can see that technology is being leveraged, where it’s clear that the advisor understands their circumstances.”

Brown also said that NAPFA is focusing on cultivating the next generation of fee-only advisors, such as the university students, including volunteers from Virginia Tech University, who were in attendance.

While a large portion of the advisor talent pipeline consists of entry-level sales jobs at major brokerages, fee-only advisors are beginning to play a larger role, thanks in part to the emergence of huge players in the space like Buckingham, Mercer and Aspiriant, but also due to a willingness among smaller advisors to sponsor internships and/or add a junior practitioner, NAPFA officials said.

“The inventory of jobs on the other side of the fence is definitely much greater than it is on this side of the fence, but one of the associations that focuses on advisors on the other side is doing an awful lot of work just trying to keep people in their space for more than one, two or three years,” said Brown. “We don’t have that issue. I think as NAPFA firms and NAPFA-like firms continue to grow, the inventory of jobs is going to increase.

“When you talk to the best students from the best financial programs about where they want to work, they know that this side of the business is where they want to be, and they’re making connections in this world to help them create thriving careers. More firms are hiring, and they’re hiring young talent from academic planning programs.”

In hand with the push towards next generation advisors is NAPFA’s commitment towards a more diverse profession, officials said. Brown explained that he is open to pursuing partnerships with other industry organizations, including the CFP Board and the FPA, to continue to diversify the industry as a whole, not just among fee-only financial planners.

Both Brown and O’Brien were critical of the regulatory changes impacting financial advisors in 2019, particularly when it came to the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest, which tightens standards for both brokerage representatives and independent advisors.

“I’ve noticed that the consumer financial press is super skeptical of the actual change that this rule is going to potentially create by bestowing a ‘best interest’ moniker on the brokerage world,” said Brown. “I think it creates even more of an opportunity for NAPFA and fee-only advisors. ... It is super disappointing that rather than create some uniformity and change for consumers, the SEC kind of increased consumer confusion. I feel like it creates a false equivalence between the Regulation Best Interest standard and the full fiduciary standard that our advisors work under, and that does a tremendous disservice to the public.”