Low-key NAPFA launches Vegas conference with flash

With focus on CFP designation, group not seeking quick jolt to ranks

May 8, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

For an organization that for the most part is low-key, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors launched its spring conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday with some flash.

NAPFA chair Lauren Locker entered the Paris Hotel conference room where about 400 NAPFA members were gathered wearing a Las Vegas showgirl's head dress. She was followed later by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas marching band.

“There's nothing I wouldn't do for NAPFA,” Locker said.

Despite the glitter of the conference opening, the organization — made up of about 2,500 fee-only financial planners — isn't looking to add to its rolls substantially or quickly.

“We feel that if we offer quality to our members, it will be an organic growth process,” Ms. Locker said in an interview before the conference. “We don't have a goal for where we want to be. NAPFA is the best-kept secret in terms of a membership organization.”

NAPFA's move late last year to require that new members hold a certified financial planner designation has helped to define the organization better, according to Ms. Locker.

“If we take the CFP as a baseline, the consumer can understand that,” Ms. Locker said.

Although its numbers are modest, NAPFA is trying to make its presence felt on public policy issues, such as potential fiduciary-duty regulations and regulatory oversight of investment advisers, by participating in the Financial Planning Coalition. The FPC also includes the Financial Planning Association and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc.

“We're not trying to be a big juggernaut of an organization,” said David O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Financial Planning Inc. “But we need to be relevant.”

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