Like so many industries, the financial advisor industry faced significant challenges in 2020. From virtual relationship management to working from home, advisors were forced to rethink the way they ran their practices and handled their client meetings.
Despite these challenges, industry sentiment remained positive and growth continued to be a key theme. Every year the Financial Planning Association appoints a new president and in 2021, they choose the former TD Ameritrade president with a 30-year career, Skip Schweiss. To find out more about some of the trends facing advisors and their practices, we had a chance to sit down with the then-newly appointed President of the Financial Planning Association where he discussed his new role and the organization’s goals for the year ahead. Having assumed the role on January 1, 2021, Schweiss expressed his excitement to work with the FPA to serve its members and create new offerings.
In your previous role at TD Ameritrade, you managed advisor advocacy for the institutional side of the business. How will you bring that experience to bear on your current role as president of the FPA?
There’s a little bit of an intersection here in that I was originally led to the path of leadership in the FPA through my role advocating for planners and advisors. I’ve got about 10 or 11 years of experience in public policy and it’s certainly an important benefit for our members that they have an organization that can put some weight behind the voices of advisors and planners in the public policy arena. We know a lot of the key people in those circles and we know how the processes work. We’re waiting to see what the new Congress and the new administration are thinking in terms of regulation for planners, so we will be very closely engaged in those discussions.
There’s been a lot of consolidation among custodian brokers over the past few years. Do you think this consolidation is a good thing for advisors and their clients?
Financial services is a scale game and the massive amount of money you need to invest to keep up with technology demands, regulatory compliance demands, etc. requires a lot of scale.
The cost of doing trades has come down and so you’re seeing more consolidation as you have this squeeze of the need to invest a lot to stay at the leading edge of service provision. I may be biased, having come from TD Ameritrade, but I don’t think that this is either a bad thing or a good thing for advisors. It’s good in that you’re going to have a smaller number of stronger providers who are able to make the investments needed to serve advisors and their clients, so that’s how I would generally look at it.
What are some of your main goals in your role as president and what are some of the challenges you hope to help the FPA overcome?
The main goal is to be of maximum value to our members. And it’s a changing landscape. We’re going to be raising our game in terms of providing a length-of-career curriculum built to support planners from the time they’re in college to the time they’re senior leaders in the profession.
The second thing we’re addressing is the disruption from the pandemic. It has disrupted our meeting schedules and we can’t do in-person meetings right now. We hope we’ll be able to start getting back to that in the next six months or so, but we’re also learning a lot about the benefits of virtual meetings. We’re seeing opportunities there in how we can deliver more content virtually than we could ever before in person. While we all know that the best form of human interaction is in person, we think we can complement that over time with virtual content delivery and come out stronger in the end.
What should the FPA’s mission be in 2021, given how the industry has changed in the past decade?
I think our mission should be to evaluate this changing landscape with open eyes and to do a reassessment of how the FPA can add value to its members in this new world. I’m referring not just to the pandemic-related impact and disruption, but to the way the world is changing in a lot of ways. We can’t just do things the way we’ve always done them and expect to maintain our value proposition for our members. So, we need to look at the changing landscape and think about how we can rebuild our value proposition for our members, rebuild our content curriculum, and take a fresh look at our public policy advocacy to make sure that we’re representing our members’ interests.
In addition to all that, we’ve all read the stories and seen the numbers that many planners are thinking about retiring in the next five to 10 years. So, how do we replace those people? Americans need financial planning help more than ever and we’re going to have to work hard to foster the next generation of planners coming into this field to serve consumers’ needs.
What would you tell young advisors about the benefits of joining the FPA?
The first thing I would lead with is community. A lot of our members tell me that the reason they belong to the FPA is because of the community we have. A lot of them are independent business people or owners of small businesses, so they don’t have a huge number of colleagues in their office that they can lean on for support as to how to build their practice. The FPA provides that community and I think that’s very attractive to the newer entrants coming into the space, whether they’re career changers or they’re coming right out of college.
If they’ve got their CFP certification, there are also lots of continuing education opportunities. And then there’s the aspect that we’re advocating for them in public policy circles. We’ll also be placing more emphasis on how that next generation of planners can be more diverse and more reflective of American society. It’s a terrific profession and I think we need to do a better job of conveying that to more diverse audiences who are thinking about their career paths.