Financial planners push to add restrictions on use of term in SEC advice proposal

Financial Planning Association sends 85 members to Capitol Hill

Jun 7, 2018 @ 3:01 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Financial planners descended on Capitol Hill on Thursday to advocate for regulation that would specify which investment advisers can refer to themselves as planners.

The Financial Planning Association sent 85 members to lobby lawmakers and their staffs. One of their messages focused on a provision of the Securities and Exchange Commission's investment-advice-reform proposal that prohibits some brokers from describing themselves as "financial advisers."

The FPA members — as well as the Financial Planning Coalition — assert that restrictions also should be placed on the term "financial planner" so that financial advisers can market themselves as planners only if they hold the Certified Financial Planner designation.

"Anyone can call themselves a financial planner," William Nelson, chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel at Mercer Advisors, told FPA members on Wednesday during a symposium preparing them for their Capitol Hill visits. "The work you're doing tomorrow is very beneficial."

Leaving out financial planning is one of many deficiencies of the SEC proposal, according to Marty Kurtz, founder and principal of The Planning Center in Moline, Ill.

"There's this huge void," Mr. Kurtz said. "The regulation is not current at any level. We need to get people weighing in on it."

In her meetings with lawmakers, Nadine Burns, president and chief executive of A New Path Financial in Ann Arbor, Mich., planned to stress the importance of putting a finer regulatory point on financial planning.

"There's got to be a standard for financial planning," she said. "I want to define who can give financial advice, just like who can give legal or medical advice."

(More:Hurry up and kill the DOL fiduciary rule already, insurance groups tell 5th circuit)

The SEC proposal was released in April and is open for public comment until Aug. 7. Extending the comment deadline to allow more time for investor testing of disclosure included in the package is another talking point that FPA members took to Capitol Hill.

Congress does not have direct control over the SEC rulemaking. But pressure from members of Congress could influence the agency, according to Karen Nystrom, FPA director of advocacy.

"This is going to be a process," Ms. Nystrom said. "Congress will be involved in some way. We feel it's important to get our message out to them."

On Wednesday night, the FPA held a political action committee fundraiser in Washington where it expected about five to eight lawmakers. The organization has contributed $37,000 to House and Senate candidates so far in the 2018 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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