FSI’s CEO Details Current State of Industry Advocacy at OneVoice Event, Announces Diversity Initiative and Study Results on Advisor Growth
This week thought leaders and firm executives from across independent financial services gathered in Dallas for the annual Financial Services Institute (FSI) OneVoice conference.
The event marks the official kickoff of advocacy year, not just for FSI but for the broader industry – much of which doesn’t have the resources to their own policy arms monitoring events in Washington, D.C., and the states.
WSR had the opportunity to speak with Dale Brown, President and CEO of FSI, about the week, FSI’s ongoing advocacy efforts and some news that came out of the conference.
WSR: What were the top advocacy priorities FSI rolled out at this year’s OneVoice?
Brown: There were a number of them, but at a high level I’ll begin with some of the uncertainties that exist surrounding standard of care rules. This includes possible new state regulations and potential new DOL standards for ERISA plans. We have always been focused on expanding access to financial advice. We are concerned these proposals will have the opposite effect.
Secondly, the current administration, some members of Congress, and certain state policymakers believe that workers are best protected when they are classified as employees. We disagree with this interpretation and will continue to fight to maintain the unique benefits of the independent model for financial advisors and the clients they serve. Therefore, we will do everything possible to ensure that advisors’ independent contractor status is protected.
Third, we remain committed to boosting investor education. Last year, we hosted several in-person financial literacy events, and we hope to do the same in 2022. We support state efforts to include financial literacy in school curriculum. Meanwhile, we will remain active in sounding the alarm around the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.
Otherwise, we will do everything we can to reduce our members’ regulatory burdens – whether they stem from regulation by enforcement, investment taxes or the unintended consequences that could come from emerging data privacy laws particularly those that don’t account for Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
The bottom line is that FSI’s advocacy efforts produced strong results for our members and Main Street investors in 2021, despite headwinds from Washington and the states. And while many challenges remain, we will look to maintain that momentum in 2022.
WSR: What are you hoping OneVoice attendees got out of this year’s event?
Brown: There was a common thread of “opportunity” throughout OneVoice. First and foremost, the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues – whether it was in person in Dallas or through the OneVoice virtual event platform. In Dallas, you could sense the joy of being able to see each other in person and not a small square on your computer screen. We are honored that OneVoice can serve as a “homecoming” of sorts for independent financial services firm executives, bringing them together to discuss solutions to the challenges facing the industry and their firms.
Throughout the sessions, there was much discussion on various opportunities for growth in the industry. It’s been almost three years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and it continues to impact the economy, financial markets, business operations and our social lives. Our members adapted and seized opportunities throughout 2020 and 2021, and 2022 will be no different. There are significant opportunities for growth by reaching the next generation of talent and clients, as well as utilizing new technologies.
Our advocacy mission plays a critical role in helping our members capitalize on these opportunities. We seek to modernize rules and regulations to reflect the current business environment and technology while ensuring investor protection and preserving Americans’ access to affordable, objective financial advice products and services.
I hope that all attendees came away from OneVoice actionable ideas they can begin to implement at their firms to seize on growth opportunities, new relationships and rekindled existing ones, and a better understanding of the important role FSI plays in the advancement of our industry.
WSR: Are there any OneVoice speakers, sessions and other events you were especially excited about and why?
Brown: I think they were all important. It’s such an education-rich event. That said, we made two announcements at OneVoice that I believe are noteworthy.
The first one was a strategic partnership with INROADS, a non-profit that works to promote the professional success of young people from ethnically diverse backgrounds. A few years ago, I spoke with our board about the importance of fostering the next generation of financial advisors and addressing the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the industry.
That led to us creating a diversity and inclusion initiative to create forums for members to address some of the challenges in their own firms and practices in this area. The collaboration with INROADS is a natural outgrowth of that effort, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what comes of it.
Meanwhile, we also released a joint study with partner firm Broadridge. In it, we found that growth in the independent advisor channel will depend on three factors: having access to the latest technologies; leveraging new investment vehicles and trends; and making connections with both underserved communities and the next generation of clients.
Tech is the biggest part of the equation, according to the findings. I think my good friend, Chris Perry, the President of Broadridge Financial Solutions and FSI board member, said it well, ‘this wave of digital transformation provides investment ideas, offers financial literacy tools, discusses ESG trends, and connects with clients and their families in new ways.’
Julius Buchanan, Senior Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org