FPA issues final, curtailed plan to reshape chapters

Group confirms it won't dissolve local chapters, and will begin transition with two-year beta test

Jul 11, 2019 @ 2:11 pm

By Greg Iacurci

The Financial Planning Association issued its final plan Thursday to restructure the trade group, confirming it will back off an earlier controversial proposal to merge its local chapters and providing clarity around how it will gauge the plan's success.

The FPA, a group representing financial planners with 23,000 members, said its final OneFPA Network Plan represents an overhaul necessary to adapt to competition, shifting member demographics and business diversity, and technology.

Evelyn Zohlen, president of the FPA, said "substantively little" changed from the most recent proposal to the final plan, which took into account feedback received during a 45-day comment period on its second proposal issued in April and an extensive listening tour of chapters across the country.

The FPA had received backlash when it proposed its initial restructure plan last November, especially around the idea of dissolving its 86 local chapters and merging them with the national FPA entity. All chapters are currently their own legal entities with autonomy over functions such as finances and event programming, and critics feared a power grab from FPA national.

The FPA backed off that idea in its amended proposal, and has kept that intact in its final version. The group said, however, that it may revisit the idea in the future, depending on the success of so-called "beta-test" chapters.

In fact, the greatest difference in the final plan is new detail around these beta-test chapters, Ms. Zohlen said, 10 of which will be selected by the FPA to study the effects of more coordination and centralization between the chapters and FPA national.

During the two-year beta test, which begins Jan. 1, the FPA will measure goals and performance around themes such as member recruitment, retention and composition; member engagement and satisfaction; staff satisfaction; and chapter viability (increase or decrease in revenues and expenses). These metrics were developed by a third-party consultant.

Chapters that wish to be part of the beta test must fill out an application by Sept. 15 and will be selected in mid-October.

It appears the FPA is especially interested in metrics around NexGen members (its group of young planners) — there's a separate gauge around the number of NexGen members as a percentage of the whole chapter membership, as well as a measure of NexGen participation in chapter programs and activities.

The FPA also indicated that chapter executives of beta-test chapters would now work under FPA national consistent with their current employment status (independent contractor or W-2 employee). The local chapter, however, would determine the executive's compensation and has final decision-making over employment status.

Beta-test chapters must also provide annual budget information and monthly financial data to FPA national.

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