Working for Californian’s Financial Future

We recently sent a letter to Ed Gjertsen, president of FPA national, expressing, on behalf of our members in California, a desire that national “move forward urgently with legislation that regulates financial planners as professionals, similar to that regulating architects, attorneys, accountants and physicians.”

Part of our motivation was the feedback we got from legislators during our recent “Advocacy Week” when we repeatedly heard this question: “how is it going with your efforts to obtain state licensing of financial planners?” This tells us that not only are we being heard on your behalf, but that after our numerous visits to Sacramento and recently, legislative district offices, the legislators are beginning to know who and what FPA is and that we are recognized as a rational voice in the financial services world.

FPA of California was founded to represent our members in Sacramento with legislators and regulators and also to have a hand in crafting and nurturing appropriate regulation of planning as a profession.

Rest assured, our letter was written in a collegial tone, acknowledging the wonderful support we’ve gotten from our national organization, offering our assistance, and promising coordinated action.

While those opposed to applying a higher standard to persons who purport to give “advice” on personal finances argue against “excessive government regulation” it seems to us that those who call themselves “financial planners” or some similar-sounding title – un-trained, un-certified, with no code of ethics or legal requirement to put the client’s best interests ahead of their own – do, indeed, pose a serious threat to the financial well-being of the general public and to the welfare of society.

In a recent discussion with Kevin Keller, CEO of the CFP Board of Standards, he laid out some concerns about premature efforts – among them, a possible patchwork of regulations in different states – but also the high likelihood of significant resistance from the insurance industry and other financial actors who perceive more stringent regulation as a threat to their livelihood. Those groups have political action committees that are far, far better funded than that of the FPA. (Hint, hint – if you haven’t written a personal check to our FPA PAC, now is a good time to do so!)

It may be that we need to start the regulation ball rolling with one state, with model legislation, and then move on to others. This is a strategic and tactical decision that is beyond the scope of our FPA of California organization. Ultimately, the next steps will be determined by the national Financial Planning Association in conjunction with the other two organizations that comprise the Financial Planning Coalition; namely, the CFP Board and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Nonetheless, most of us would acknowledge that effective action from Congress seems like a very long shot. One thing we feel is sure: the energy to get started is certainly going to come from our grass roots, and I’m pleased that we’ve made our desires and priorities known. We are enthusiastic about contributing our state organization’s resources to further our national FPA and Financial Planning Coalition goals, and look forward to continuing to represent our California members as their eyes and ears in Sacramento.

This is my last article as president; my term ends and you’ll hear from a new voice. I’m delighted to introduce our next leader, Alice King, CFP®​, from the San Francisco chapter. Alice has been an active part of FPA CA for several years, and brings energy and organization and passion to the position. I’ll remain involved as chair for 2016.