by Melissa Klein

The practice of CPAs providing personal financial planning for their clients is no longer revolutionary. As we present our fourth annual edition of Accounting Today’s Names to Know in Financial Planning, evidence abounds that accountants are well ensconced in the PFP arena.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Herb Vest, known as a pioneer on the trail of accountants becoming financial planners, waged a campaign to change regulations to allow CPAs to accept commissions. More than a decade has passed since the American Institute of CPAs changed its code of conduct to permit CPAs to accept commissions and contingent fees. And today, 44 states allow CPAs to accept commissions or contingent fees, up from 40, two years ago.

Some 6,300 (16 percent) of the nation’s 39,375 certified financial planners are CPAs, according to the latest statistics from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. And the AICPA reported that roughly 3,100 CPAs have earned its Personal Financial Specialist designation.

To those of you who are already practicing in the planning profession, the names on this list are sure to be familiar. And for those of you who are preparing to dip your toes in the financial planning pool, they are faces you are certain to come to know.

The majority of this year’s honorees are CPAs. Eight members of this dynamic dozen are highly successful financial planning practitioners. Four are leaders of established organizations that have made their mark by ushering thousands of CPAs into the financial planning arena. And while they’re not newcomers to

the PFP field, several of this year’s honorees are making their debut on our Names to Know list.

Perhaps one of the profession’s most active participants, former AICPA chair Stuart Kessler is making his mark on the planning profession - on a global scale - as chairman of the ISO Technical Committee, the group that is charged with the task of developing international standards for financial planning.

In addition to serving as a director at Miami-based Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, where she has been instrumental in the firm’s foray into investment advisory services through its Paradigm Advisory Group, Randi Grant recently served as chair of the Florida State Board of Administration’s Investment Advisory Council. The FSBA, which is responsible for the Florida Retirement System, has plan assets of approximately $1 billion dollars and is the fourth-largest public pension.

As director of TIAA-CREF’s Advisor Services division, Michael Lane is at the forefront of the financial services behemoth’s effort to attract CPA advisors. And with TIAA-Cref’s $290 billion in untapped investment assets, CPAs may want to take notice.

A frequent face on the lecture circuit, industry veteran Beth Gamel specializes in investment counseling and estate, income tax and charitable giving planning.

The continued influence of some of our past Names to Know has earned them a spot on our list once again. As the leaders of firms that are each established names among the CPA community, H.D. Vest’s Roger Ochs and 1st Global’s Tony Batman remain driving forces in the PFP field.

While the current trend among CPA firms with well-established planning practices is toward bringing the PFP staff in-house, most of them got there by initially signing on with a broker-dealer outfit that helped them navigate the area’s choppy regulatory waters, and 1st Global and Vest are two of the largest. 1st Global has over 1,000 affiliated accounting firms that collectively represent roughly $5 billion in managed assets and $1 billion in combined accounting, tax and financial services revenue. H.D. Vest’s 6,000 advisors collectively manage $14 billion in assets.

After serving more than a decade as the head of the AICPA’s PFP division, Phyllis Bernstein, a noted speaker and author on myriad PFP topics, has re-emerged in the field as a consultant to CPA firms building PFP practices.

Planning guru Deena Katz has established herself as an authority on the management of a financial services business. In addition to being a noted author and speaker, Katz is widely recognized as an industry innovator.

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