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Mark Schoeff Jr. looks at what's really happening on Capitol Hill - and the upshot for advisers.

FPA seeks to ramp up lobbying by hiring D.C. firm

Move designed to bolster influence on legislation, regulations

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Nov 16, 2012 @ 3:23 pm (Updated 6:42 pm) EST

The Financial Planning Association is turning to a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to beef up its efforts to influence federal and state lawmakers and regulators.

At the beginning of the month, the organization hired the Raben Group, a public affairs shop founded by Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.

Outsourcing its lobbying function means that FPA will shut down its internal government relations office and eliminate the jobs of the four-person staff.

Tapping the Raben Group will extend and deepen the FPA's reach on policy and regulatory issues, according to FPA officials.

“If we're going to take it to the next level, we need to get additional resources in place to achieve our goals around advocacy,” said Lynn Brackpool, FPA managing director of communications.

The 40-employee Raben Group, which has offices in Washington and Los Angeles, will help FPA nationalize its lobbying by strengthening its state-level efforts. FPA chapters in Florida and California, for instance, are trying to ramp up their activity at their respective state houses.

“Our clients take advantage of a tailored suite of services including policy development, direct lobbying, coalition building, grass-tops campaigns, political counsel and strategic communication,” the Raben Group says on its website.

The FPA has about 24,000 members. At its annual conference in San Antonio in October, FPA emphasized the need to coalesce around one professional credential, the certified financial planner mark. Stepping up its public policy efforts helps underscore the “one profession, one designation” theme.

“Bringing on resources can help enhance our service and benefits for our CFP membership base,” Ms. Brackpool said.

The move comes shortly after Lauren Schadle took over as FPA executive director and chief executive at the annual conference last month. Ms. Schadle replaced former CEO Marvin Tuttle, who was due to retire in 2014 but moved up his departure to address family matters.

The decision to hire the Raben Group does not reflect disappointment in the FPA's in-house government relations function, according to Ms. Brackpool.

“Our staff there has done a terrific job against difficult odds,” Ms. Brackpool said.

Dan Barry, FPA managing director for government relations and public policy, is going to remain with the organization until the end of the year to ease the transition.

“They've got a lot of good connections on Capitol Hill, a lot of good experience in issue management,” Mr. Barry said of the Raben Group. “That is something that can benefit FPA.”

The FPA and the Financial Planning Coalition, which is comprised of FPA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., has been active in opposing legislation that would establish a self-regulatory organization for investment advisers. The coalition instead is advocating a bill that would maintain adviser oversight at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The FPA also has been vocal in pushing the SEC to move forward with a rule that would impose a uniform fiduciary standard for retail investment advice. In addition, the organization has lobbied on tax policy.

His departure has been amicable, Mr. Barry said.

“Everyone has spoken very highly of the work our team has done over the years,” Mr. Barry said.

He does not yet have a new job, but he may be able to build on his FPA connections wherever he lands next.

“We enjoyed working with these people and on these issues,” Mr. Barry said. “In our next opportunity, we might be able to continue those relationships.”

  @IN Wire

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