The Financial Planning Association’s plan to revamp its chapter system modernizes the organization, according to FPA’s CEO, but some members are not so sure about the motivation and the effectiveness of the plan.
The plan, OneFPA Network, aims to elevate, integrate and align the FPA’s 86 locally run chapters, FPA Executive Director and CEO Lauren Schadle wrote in an email to members.
“The reality is that having 86 separately incorporated legal entities operating with different internal systems, platforms and strategies is not the best way to serve you and our future members, or drive our relevance and brand,” Schadle said in the message.
The new strategy focuses on harnessing the power of “participatory governance” and “centralized functionality.”
Schadle defined participatory governance as “inviting more FPA leaders from across the country into our strategic direction-setting process, so that we can leverage the power of our diversity.” Centralized functionality was defined as “integrating key administrative functions across FPA chapters and communities to create economies of scale and an enhanced and seamless member experience.”
The idea to restructure FPA arose in 2013 from talking to members of local chapters, she said. Hearing some key concerns, Schadle and the FPA commissioned a study the following year to find out what create better alignment for the organization.
What followed included the development of numerous task forces to identify specific areas of improvement and what could be done better.
With 23,000 members nationally, Schadle is hoping to put the association in a better position for Next Gen members.
“OneFPA Network is a response to current and anticipated challenges in the landscape that are making it more difficult for volunteer professional associations to operate,” Schadle said. “These challenges include increased competition, rapid technological advancements, generational changes, diverse market needs and elevated time constraints on volunteer leaders and members.”
Prominent FPA member Michael Kitces said in a tweet that he is “deeply concerned by the FPA National’s decision to disband and nationalize its chapters in such a unilateral action. While I certainly understand the principle of centralized efficiencies, to suggest that this is the reason for 18 years of stagnant membership is absurd.”
Schadle said the decision has less to do with membership and more to do with using an outdated business model.
“In terms of why now, the association business model that we are currently working within for FPA is really more of an older paradigm,” Schadle said. “With the new OneFPA Network we’re trying to look into what a new paradigm would look like for the 21st century and for bringing on the next generation of planners.”
Schadle responded to Kitces’ comments via email saying that no local chapters will be disbanded.
“As far as chapters are concerned, while the legal structure may change under the OneFPA Network, the local programs and services that our 86 chapters and two state councils provide now, will not change,” Schadle said. “Finally, this is not a ‘nationalization’ effort and chapters are not being ‘disbanded.’”
Melissa Simpson, association manager of the FPA of Central Pennsylvania said, “In theory it sounds great but execution will be interesting.”
Simpson did not elaborate on what challenges the local chapters might face upon implementing the new initiative, but Twitter seemed skeptical of the plan.
Kitces and several others aired on Twitter that they were displeased about the lack of communication from the FPA about the matter.
FPA members will have until Feb. 22 to ask questions, state their concerns and offer suggestions about the new initiative. During that time, Schadle and the board of directors will embark on a listening tour on local FPA chapters. Members can also share their thoughts on by sending comment letters to OneFPANetwork@OneFPA.org.
AdvisorNews Managing Editor Cassie Miller may be reached at cassie.miller@Adnewsfeedback.com. Cassie has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. Follow her on Twitter @ANCassieM.