Financial advisors who are looking for professional support outside their own businesses can join one or more of several key organizations dedicated to furthering financial planning in various capacities, such as fee-based planning, general financial services, and insurance sales.
Although it is not necessary to join any of them, membership with each major professional association comes with several benefits that can help advisors grow their practices. Here are four influential financial planning-related organizations:
- Joining a professional association can help bring industry support, quality networking, continuing education, and client leads.
- In the financial services industry, there are several national and regional associations that advisors may consider joining.
- The FPA, NAIFA, NAPFA, and Society for Financial Services Professionals are just four of the most well-respected associations, which we discuss in turn below.
- A financial advisor is not required to join any of the associations, though membership with any increases the advisor's reputability and access to resources.
- Each membership has varying specialties, membership costs, membership size, and history.
1. The Financial Planning Association (FPA)
The Financial Planning Association (FPA) considers itself to be the definitive association for Certified Financial Planners (CFP®). Founded in 2000 via a merger of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners (ICFP) and the International Association for Financial Planning (IAFP), the FPA is dedicated to furthering the CFP® credential and the financial planning profession as a whole.
FPA's website for consumers is designed to educate users on the value of financial planning and the specific ways in which it can benefit them. The site also boasts several interactive tools including tutorials, articles, and other literature, podcasts, a search engine for financial planners, and much more.
Professional members have access to a plethora of benefits and tools that can help them grow their businesses and become better advisors. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, this group created the National Planning Support Center where FPA members provide pro bono financial planning to victims of terrorist attacks and other types of disasters.
2. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA)
Founded in 1890, The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) is by far the oldest professional financial advisory association in existence today. NAIFA is geared towards providing insurance professionals, benefits specialists, and financial advisors with professional and legislative support.
This organization recognizes the critical role that insurance plays in financial planning and seeks to enhance the insurance industry by promoting ethical conduct among its members, as well as helping its members enhance their skills and level of education in the business.
NAIFA members include insurance agents, financial advisors, multi-line agents, health insurance professionals, and employee benefits specialists. Membership experience ranges from those new to the business to industry leaders. NAIFA boasts various educational opportunities for members including signature events, speaker bureaus, and a learning center.
3. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)
FPA or NAIFA both work with several different types of advisors. They also use various types of platforms such as broker-dealers, independent marketing organizations, or Registered Investment Advisory firms (RIAs), On the other hand, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) was created solely for the benefit of financial planners who charge a fee for planning services and receive no commissions of any kind.
Professional credentials, such as the CFP® or Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), are not required for membership, but members are required to sign and hold to a strict fiduciary oath on an annual basis. There is also a code of ethics that requires full disclosure of any possible conflicts of interest to clients.
According to the organization's website, NAPFA's stated values are:
- To be the beacon for independent, objective financial advice for individuals and families.
- To be the champion of financial services delivered in the public interest.
- To be the standard bearer for the emerging profession of financial planning.
4. The Society of Financial Service Professionals
The Society of Financial Service Professionals (Society of FSP) is the second-oldest financial services professional association. Founded in 1928 by the first graduating class of the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, it currently has over 10,000 members in 120 chapters nationwide.
This group is the only one that requires that all members either carry a current credential, such as the CFP, CLU, or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). It also has a code of professional conduct as well as a statement of diversity. The Society of FSP boasts a multidisciplinary community of financial professionals including CPAs, attorneys, insurance experts, and financial advisors from all disciplines.
What Is the Oldest Financial Advisor Professional Association?
Though local chapters are founded on varying dates, NAIFA is the oldest professional association for financial advisors. Founded in 1890, local, state, and national dues are now $565.
How Do Financial Advisors Join a Professional Association?
Financial advisors join professional associations by paying annual membership dues. Professional associations often cater to new entrants into the industry as well as industry-leaders, so there are often not education requirements. In addition, students or prospective financial advisor candidates may have lower annual due assessments to encourage membership prior to obtaining trading licenses.
Which Professional Association Should I Join as a Financial Advisor?
Each professional association is specialized. Some focus on specific products, while others may have a larger presence where you live. Prior to deciding which association to join, research which groups support the financial advising services you wish to pursue and which have a local chapter.
The Bottom Line
Although these four organizations are by no means the only associations available to financial services professionals, they are among the most respected and well-known in the industry today. Each one of them has local chapters that meet on a regular basis and sponsor local activities, and they each have a respected, rich history. To find a chapter near you, visit each association’s website for more information.