At the recent annual convention of the Financial Planning Association in Seattle, Daniel Moisand, its chairman, made some rather interesting and vital comments to the more than 5,000 people in attendance at its final general session. Now, understand that Moisand knows what he is talking about. He is not one of the 100 most influential people in accounting according to Accounting Today, for nothing.   Is there a more serious career than financial planning, Moisand asks? “Financial planning is not usually a matter of life or death, but it can be the difference between a dead life and an active life for our clients.”   Moreover, he points out that financial planning is indeed very serious and very important. “I’ve practiced in various environments, under a few different employers, under a few different compensation plans. At the heart of my work for all these years has been the financial planning process and putting clients’ interests first even when legally I didn’t have to.”   He notes that the financial planning process and a self imposed high standard of care were always present. “I can tell you without a hint of equivocation that I am not special in this regard. Thousands of you keep the financial planning process and the same high standard of care required of a fiduciary at the forefront of your operations every day, all the time, even if you could legally do otherwise.”   From there, he segued into the lawsuit on broker/dealers. “Much has been made of FPA’s success in fighting the infamous broker dealer exception to the Investment Adviser Act. In many other countries, the idea that a financial adviser could be exempt from fiduciary duty seems silly and the idea that a financial planner could somehow get around that standard of care borders on lunacy. Around the globe the impact of following the financial planning process effectively is profound. One great learning, or should I say, one great reminder that came from our lawsuit regarding the broker-dealer exemption was that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The public needs an easy way to identify competent and ethical financial planners.”   That brought a ringing applause. Moisand noted that there were many members (actually thousands) that were practicing within wire-house firms, with several more thousands as reps of other broker/dealer firms, including many being insurance agents, bankers, not to mention some 6,000 or so as fee-only practitioners. “Members from all corners of the profession supported our lawsuit and supported our position on standards. Our stand was largely an effort to bring value and meaning to terms like financial planner and financial planning. They all share the belief in the power of financial planning, full and fair disclosure, and giving advice with the clients’ interest first. They want to foster the value of financial planning and advance the financial planning profession.”   He stressed that it didn’t matter where one worked, how they were credentialed, or how they were paid. He acknowledges that there are faux planners that might even work right next to you at your own firm. “To the public, you look and sound alike. The public must be able to easily pick us out from among a slew of pretenders. If the public is to benefit from our expertise, they must receive competent and ethical services that meet effective practice standards. If we are to earn and keep the public’s trust, we must be able to hold everyone in financial services accountable for their representations.”   In conclusion, Moisand emphasized the fact that through the association’s lawsuit, despite all its differences, the group banded together and even strengthened its bonds to what they had in common. “It showed that if we keep our core beliefs at the fore, we are far stronger together than our differences might imply.”

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