OneFPA Network Revisited

As most of you know, I published a critique of the Financial Planning Association’s OneFPA Network proposal, which was outlined on the OneFPA Network microsite.  I objected most of all to the tone of the message on the microsite, which seemed to me to be a sales pitch that included a lot of buzzwords and breathless descriptions of benefits, which obscured, toward the back, the true aim of the initiative.  In fact, I found myself wading through a lot of excited prose about how great the future would be before I was able to find what, exactly, was being proposed.  (If you missed my commentary, you can find it here: http://www.bobveres.com/bob-veres-blog/one-persons-view-of-the-new-onefpa-network-initiative/. And you can see the microsite here: https://www.onefpanetwork.org/, but  the FPA has apparently made some changes that cause the headline banner to roll down and obscure some of the text.  I  had planned to give you screen shots of the original web page at the back of this newsletter, but they didn’t convert very well to PDF.)

The FPA responded swiftly, but politely.  The organization wrote a letter which was intended to correct my many misunderstandings and factual errors, and asked me to publish it in my newsletter.  There was no threat of lawsuits, and I was free to turn down their request, but I have chosen to reprint the letter here, with my annotations where I think I can help clarify their clarifications.  I offered a few apologies along the way.

They also offered me an interview with the leadership team—Frank Paré, current president, plus Evelyn Zohlen, president-elect, Shannon Pike, the chair, and FPA CEO Lauren Schadle.  I accepted, and we talked for an hour on the phone.  It was a respectful conversation on both sides.

I believed when I wrote the first column, and I believe now, that this is an extremely important initiative, which deserves to be carefully debated by everybody who believes in the mission and purpose of the FPA.  I also think it has the potential to be dangerous to the FPA’s future, although I don’t believe that is in any way the intention of the organization’s leadership.  The situation reminds me of the CFP Board’s long ago effort to create an “Associate CFP” designation—aka “CFP Lite”—where the board was convinced that it was doing the right thing for the profession, and there were reasons for some of us to disagree. 

So as I write this, I’m praying for guidance, that I’ll be fair and, at the same time, insightful; that I won’t try to sway the debate, but instead try to inform it.  Ultimately, this is a decision for the profession to make, and I am nothing more than an interested observer who hopes for a good outcome.

Proposal description

Let me start by doing something that the microsite did not do a great job of: lay out the proposal clearly and straightforwardly.

The FPA is proposing to centralize and streamline the organization by dissolving the legally incorporated chapter entities—86 chapters and two state councils—have all chapter administrators become employees of the FPA, and create one centralized bank account at the FPA headquarters level that will hold all the funds earned and disbursed at the chapter level. 

In addition, the FPA will diversify its leadership by creating a new OneFPA Council, which will be comprised of between 90 and 100 individuals selected (presumably by the national board) from among the chapter leadership.  They will act as a strategic sounding board and provide feedback to the FPA board, and also participate in the election of FPA board members.  (Currently, the board members are elected by sitting members of the board.)  The plan is to create more task forces and get the chapter leaders more involved in the overall initiatives of the FPA.

In the interview, the FPA leadership said that the impetus for this proposed change came from the chapter leaders themselves.  Chapter leaders were asking the FPA headquarters to relieve them of some of the burdens of managing the chapters—like handling the sometimes messy finances involved in keeping a separate checkbook, and the accounting chores generally, filing the tax forms for the chapters, hiring and training the chapter administrators.  They wanted a robust centralized database that would relieve them of the time and trouble of managing a local chapter database. 

These, I was told, are significant burdens on volunteer chapter leaders that the FPA home office staff is willing to take on its own shoulders.

Creating the Council, meanwhile, would diversify leadership and add new voices to the decision-making processes at FPA headquarters.

In our interview, I was told repeatedly that the FPA headquarters staff has no intention of micromanaging individual chapter activities like monthly meetings and speakers and charging (or not) for meals, or how the annual meetings are structured. 

They also assured me—and by implication asked me to reassure FPA members—that the centralized bank account will keep careful track of which monies should be attributed to which chapters.  The chapter will continue to control its own account, but when a bill needs to be paid, it will be paid out of the FPA account, using the chapter’s money.  When revenues come in, they will be allocated to the chapter that generated them.

Finally, in the “frequently-asked questions” on the microsite, there is a clear warning that individual chapters won’t have the option of opting out of this initiative.  Look under: “What if my chapter decides not to join national?”  The last sentence: “If a chapter decides not to integrate and follow the Governance Manual, they [sic] will no longer exist as an FPA-affiliated community and will not have FPA members.”  The New York chapter has already experienced this; the FPA does have the contractual right to terminate the chapter agreement and demand that the money in the chapter treasury be returned to headquarters.

FPA leadership perspective

In my conversation with the FPA leadership team, several issues were addressed.  They were, in no particular order:

The OneFPA Network is not, definitely not, driven by a desire, at the headquarters level, to exert more control over the chapter activities.

The FPA leadership emphasized, over and over again, that this initiative was driven by constant requests from chapter leaders that the FPA take some of the administrative chores off of their overburdened shoulders.  They had been receiving these requests since 2012.  There is no hidden motive.  This is purely a bottom-up-driven initiative.

So of course, I asked: Did the chapter leaders request that the FPA dissolve their status as legal entities? 

The answer was no—but for an interesting reason.  I was told that the chapter leaders didn’t even realize that there WERE separate legal entities.  But… Didn’t you just say they were asking for relief from filing tax forms related to their legal entity status?  If they were filing these tax forms, how did they not know that they were managing independent legal entities bound by an affiliation agreement to the FPA?

The bottom line, regardless of the contradiction, is that: no, the chapter leaders were not actually requesting what I would consider to be the core proposal of the OneFPA Network initiative.

Meanwhile, I was told several times that the FPA headquarters has no intention of micro-managing chapter activities.  If OneFPA Network happens, the chapters will manage themselves as before.  (More on that in a minute.)

This initiative was definitely not “hatched” in secrecy.

Yes, I used the word “hatched,” and perhaps that was unnecessarily inflammatory.  I apologize for that.

I was told that these issues have been debated by the OneFPA Committee (which Zohlen chaired) going back to at least 2015, and at least six other committees included FPA chapter leaders.  I was told that the leaders of the largest chapters were briefed in some detail in a meeting after the 2018 national convention.  It has been no secret that the FPA was trying to streamline, align and take burdens off of the shoulders of chapter leaders.

I would encourage FPA members to ask your chapter leaders if they were, indeed, kept in the loop on the plan to dissolve chapter entities, create a centralized bank account that would hold all chapter funds, and build a centralized database at the home office that would keep track of all local and national membership data. 

Did they, themselves, request these things?  I, personally, honestly, don’t know the answer. I was told by several chapter leaders that they first heard of the proposal at the 2018 Chapter Leadership Conference in early November.  One said that “it went off like a bomb” at CLC, while another said that she was surprised by the initiative, and the attendees unexpectedly encountered a breathless, “let’s do this!” presentation that was light on details. 

A major impetus for this initiative came from a consulting firm.  This engagement was mentioned as a significant milestone on the timeline on the OneFPA Network microsite, where, in 2014, we are told:

“An outside consultant assesses the chapter systems through a series of exhaustive interviews and develops a report with recommendations.  The report uncovers operational and cultural issues impeding FPA’s growth and success.”

Wow!  What issues?  What did they recommend?  Of course, in our interview, I asked for a copy of the report.  I asked again.  I was told by the FPA leadership team that there have actually been many consulting engagements and reports over the years, and it’s hard to pick out just one.  Nobody could even remember the name of this particular consulting firm. 

The polite answer was: no, we are not going to produce this consulting report for you to look at. Or, as Schadle put it:  “Bob, I am not sure that it would give you what you need in terms of where we ended up.”

If FPA money was spent on that report, then I would think it would be of interest to chapter leaders and the rank-and-file CFP advisors.  I wonder why it wasn’t widely circulated at the time, but I also suspect that omission doesn’t qualify as “hatching” the idea in secrecy. 

Chapters (and chapter leaders) can be sure that they will retain control over their revenues and accounts. 

We only touched on this in the interview; there were unanimous assurances that the accounts would be managed exactly as they are now, through a centralized account at FPA headquarters.

Except, when I read through the microsite, I found some interesting comments that point to additional home office supervision over the chapter budgets. 

In one of the FAQs about local assessments (the portion of a chapter member’s dues that are paid to the chapter, which, at present, can vary according to decisions made at the local chapter level) we read that:

“Relevant OneFPA committees and the Board of Directors will explore and answer what to do about dues and local assessments, including if there will be the same dues amounts across all TNCs [basically chapters], if TNC assessments are allowed, and, if so, for what, and what portion of dues is allocated to TNCs.  Ultimately, the OneFPA leadership, in the spirit of participatory governance, will have to assess and determine what is in the best interest of FPA that provides the best experience for members.”

If the OneFPA Network is implemented, and the home office decides to supervise and perhaps change how much your chapter assesses—or even whether to allow a local assessment—well, you were warned in writing.  The microsite says the home office will act in the best interests of the FPA as a whole, not necessarily in the chapter’s best interests.

There’s actually more.  The microsite says that “All FPA communities will be responsible for developing a business plan and submitting a budget in coordination with the OneFPA Resource Coordination Committee.”  Not only does that sound like close supervision, but doesn’t creating an annual business plan and anticipated budget also add to that administrative overhead burden that the OneFPA Network initiative was created to reduce?

But those are not the most problematic areas of this financial issue.  If I were a chapter leader, I would worry about the safety and sanctity of the local sponsorship relationships that the chapter has developed over the years.  Many firms only sponsor at the local level.  Some can only afford to.  Others see more value in sponsoring locally than nationally, at the FPA convention or through the FPA’s Journal

The FPA leadership seems to have noticed all those local chapter sponsorships, and the microsite addresses how it plans to “coordinate more nationally based relationships.”

Here’s the full text:

“Under the OneFPA Network, the intention is to coordinate and leverage the potential of FPA’s strategic partnerships, financially and otherwise.  All FPA communities have a role to play in sponsorships and partnerships.  Specifically, as it relates to TNCs, they will work with the OneFPA Strategic Partnerships Committee on national sponsorships and have a key role with respect to local sponsorships.  TNCs should have the freedom and authority to enhance local relationships while coordinating more nationally based relationships.  The OneFPA Strategic Partnerships Committee will assess and recommend the most effective approach to the strategic partnerships and how the monies get distributed.”

To my mind, this may be the most potentially-consequential issue that local chapters need to consider.  As I read this, national is saying quite clearly that it wants a piece of those local relationships.

Couldn’t some of these initiatives be implemented without the others necessarily taking place?

I have reservations about how the initiative was presented to the chapters and the membership on the microsite.  I’ve expressed concerns that it wasn’t more widely-known before the CLC announcement.  But there are some proposals here that I would encourage my readers to strongly endorse.

For instance, I think we can all endorse the entity variously described on the microsite as the OneFPA Advisory Group and the OneFPA Council, consisting of 90-100 chapter leaders.  Allowing chapter leaders to have more input into the decision-making at the board level, and broadening the leadership, would almost certainly be a good thing for the organization.

Even better, in the interview, I was told that this organization would participate in the selection of FPA board members, which right now seems to me to be a pretty insular process. 

Moreover, I think a modernized database that synchronizes more fully with the chapter databases could be a benefit to all concerned.

In fact, I’m so enthusiastic that I wonder why the FPA can’t make those structural improvements immediately.  They could make these improvements while the membership debates thornier issues like dissolving the chapter entities or removing their funds off to a centralized bank account.

The answer: no, they couldn’t.  I was told that it’s not the FPA leaders who are saying that; they said that when these “half measures” (their term) were proposed to the chapter leaders, their response was that they didn’t want these halfway measures.  They didn’t want participatory governance if the FPA didn’t also remove the burdens of having to govern independent chapter entities. 

Remember, this is all being driven by the chapter leaders.  The chapter leaders apparently rejected participatory governance unless they could also dissolve their local entities.

There was an interesting side-note to this in my interview with the FPA leaders, who said (and I believe sincerely) that they were going to be spending 2019 on a “listening tour” with chapter leaders around the country.

That stopped me.  Chapter leaders?  What about the membership?

What I found interesting about this is that the local chapter entities can be dissolved with signatures from each chapter leadership.  The FPA national headquarters can dissolve the chapter affiliation agreement unilaterally, but to make the chapter go away altogether, you have to get the chapter leaders to sign off on it.  Not the individual members: the chapter leaders.  The chapter leaders are the decision-makers here.

The communications so far have been primarily with chapter leaders, and my interview with FPA national leadership suggested that this would continue.

I asked if this whole initiative was a (my words) “done deal,” if it had already been decided and we were all just going through the formalities. 

The answer was no.  I was told that the initiative was still very much up for discussion.

If that’s true (and I believe it is), then how would you suggest that rank and file FPA members weigh in with their thoughts and suggestions?

The answer: contact your chapter leadership and find out when and where the listening tour will visit your neck of the woods.  And this may be a webinar instead of a personal visit.  Right now, the listening tour details on the website are purely Zoom video conference meetings that chapter boards can sign up for; there are no physical travel dates or locations.  (In the interview, I was told by Paré and Zohlen that they and the leadership would fly to any chapter that requested it.)

Before we get to the FPA’s rebuttal letter, I want to make clear that I take this initiative very seriously, and there are certain parts of it that I like very much. 

I also believe that there is the potential for long-term damage to the financial planning profession’s largest membership organization.  The proposal essentially boils down to: to create more efficiency we will create more centralization of function, and add more distributed headquarters leadership in the process.  What worries me is that the centralization will be concentrated at the headquarters, which I believe (feel free to contradict me) has not been managed with the same degree of effectiveness as many of the local chapters.

This was brought home to me when we talked, in the interview, about dues.  FPA members with the CFP designation pay $399 to be affiliated with the association, and that’s how much headquarters gets per year.  The local chapter will often tack on $50 or $100 to that.

Here’s a question I would invite everyone to ponder: do you get four or eight times as much benefit from the FPA’s national initiatives as you do from the local chapter?  Which has historically provided more value to you as an FPA member?

If your answer is that the local chapter has provided more value with much fewer resources, then does it make sense to centralize at the headquarters level, where you get less value?  THAT, in a nutshell, is the problem I cannot overcome in my mind with this proposal.

But that said, let’s hear what the FPA has to say about my initial comments, and—after that—you can go back and check out the full OneFPA Network microsite and hope they’ve fixed the header obscuring some of the text.

An Open Letter to Bob Veres

Bob,

We read with interest your recent assessment of the OneFPA Network and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Moving forward, we welcome your continued feedback as we work together to advance FPA and the profession of financial planning. While we trust that you have the best of intentions in supporting both the profession and FPA, given some of the factual inaccuracies in your write-up, we felt it was beneficial and important to clarify and correct the items you highlighted. We also felt it was important to respond to each comment you made since FPA intends to share this letter with all our stakeholders to ensure that the facts are disseminated, and that open dialogue continues and is encouraged:

“The amazing thing, to me, is how unaware I was of this important initiative that was being hatched at the FPA Board level.  Did you hear about that at the time?  If not, why were the members not kept in the loop?”

FPA’s Perspective:

The OneFPA Initiative has been at the center of the organization for nearly five years and has been discussed and presented at great length to chapter boards and members in several ways, including in-person meetings, virtual chapter leader updates, email communications and more. And this initiative was based on the direct request of chapter leaders to find a better path forward – not “hatched” at the board level.

Bob Veres comment: If I have this wrong, I certainly apologize.  I hope at least some FPA members reading this will ask your chapter leaders if they have indeed known, for years, about the proposal to dissolve the chapter entities and consolidate all chapter finances into one account at FPA headquarters.  And if they did, did they communicate these important changes with the chapter membership?

“I found it remarkable that after reading all this material, I still didn’t actually know what the initiative consisted of.  As I read on, it was all about the terrific benefits, but nothing actually told me what actual change they were proposing.”

FPA’s Perspective:

The OneFPA Network plan document, available on the OneFPA Network microsite, provides a detailed framework for the vision that will be completed through the work of our committees and task forces that will have equal representation from national and local (chapter) leaders. In the spirit of collaboration, many details are not yet defined until teams of local leaders can participate in the analysis and recommendations. 

Bob Veres comment: I do NOT apologize for this.  I invite readers to look behind this letter at the description on the OneFPA Network microsite as it is laid out for readers to consume, and make your own determination whether this is a description of changes or a sales pitch that tends to obscure the thing they are actually asking you to buy. 

“It is not clear (to me, at least) whether the current divisions will be maintained, or if new chapters will be created by splitting up existing chapters.”

FPA’s Perspective:

There are no plans to change the current chapter system outside of eliminating the unnecessary legal trappings and streamlining operations and functions. The intent is to support our chapters – not hinder them or eliminate them. We could not have been clearer that the geographic communities that are such a unique and vital part of FPA will continue to provide the services and programs they do now, but with more support and collaboration.

Bob Veres comment:  This is good to hear.  It wasn’t clear (to me, at least) from the microsite.

“All chapter activities will be coordinated at the FPA’s home office…”

FPA’s Perspective:

FPA has no intention of coordinating chapter activities. The chapter activities, including programs, education, networking, pro bono and much more, are up to the chapters to decide and coordinate. It would be both strategically and practically impossible for the “home office” to control, let alone coordinate, all local efforts. The intent is to relieve back office burdens from the chapters and support local efforts through better information sharing and support. Certainly, there are going to be a variety of programs that are being done nationally, just as they are done now, but with a higher level of integration to remove unintended internal competition and elevate efficiencies. The bottom line is that the chapters will still develop and execute their own programs and activities – just as they do now.

Bob Veres comment:  I probably overstated this, and for that I apologize.  I am concerned that when the finances are pooled, when the board and council will co-decide how to maximize the member experience, and when the paid chapter coordinators will become employees of FPA headquarters, there will be opportunity at least for closer supervision of chapter activities.  After talking with the FPA leadership, I believe that they do not intend, at this time, to engage in such supervision. 

I was also concerned by the statement that, if this initiative passes, every chapter would have to submit a business plan and budget to the OneFPA Resource Coordination Committee. Would that be a formality, or would there be feedback from the home office as to: do we really need to spend that much on the annual meeting speakers?  Is that keynote speaker really necessary?  Shouldn’t you put in some profit on the lunches that will be served? 

If there is feedback, does that mean the chapter would still be able to go its own way regardless of the recommendations?

“Each TNC will retain its current board and leadership positions.”  But…  “There may be changes to local TNCs,” we are told, “but when that happens and where that happens is impossible to determine now.”  As I translate this: buy into this idea, and don’t worry about what we do with your (no longer a chapter) in the future.”

FPA’s Perspective:

Chapters will determine their leadership positions. The national office has neither the desire nor resources to do otherwise. Removing the chapters’ ability to self-determine their leadership is counter to what we stand for. The system is being redesigned with an unprecedented representation from chapter leadership to determine not only the future of the chapters, but also FPA. The vision of the OneFPA Network is more – not less – control by chapter leaders about what happens to chapters and FPA in the future. And, in addition, the national Board of Directors is comprised primarily of past chapter leaders who have great affinity for their local chapters.

Bob Veres comment:  If I were a chapter leader, I would save this clarification of what I found to be quite a disturbing part of the proposal as laid out initially.  What you see above were exact quotes from the microsite, to the effect that “we may impose changes in the future, but we can’t tell you what they will be at this time.”

“The only possible explanation for the breathless prose couching what is, fundamentally, a very simple idea, is that the FPA leadership really REALLY REALLY wants the membership to buy into the dissolution of the legal chapter entities.  Otherwise they would do what you and I do every day: explain our proposal, and then list some of the reasons why we think it’s a good idea.

Leading with all the reasons why this unstated thing is a great idea, before introducing the idea, speaks volumes about how this is a sales effort rather than a simple proposal.  And if, indeed, the FPA board kept quiet about this initiative for four years, you wonder about its confidence that this was, indeed, something the membership would regard as healthy for the association.”

FPA’s Perspective:

There are several issues here, including:

– This initiative does not plan for the “the dissolution” of chapters from a functional standpoint, merely from a legal entity standpoint. Separate legal entities create another layer of work that volunteer leaders should not have to deal with. Eighty-nine separate legal entities mean there are 89 separate 990 filings, 89 different accounting systems, 89 different CRMs, 50 varying state corporate statutes, etc. Integrating under one legal umbrella is no different than other corporate and not-for-profit entities that have chosen a more integrated and aligned legal approach to enhance efficiencies and effectiveness. We are moving an antiquated model into the 21st century and believe that the change will be of great long-term benefit for volunteer leaders and members.

– The OneFPA Network is not simple, but a transformational change to the entire organization that impacts the national FPA organization as much as it does the chapters.   

– We have not been “quiet” about this for four years. We have discussed the OneFPA Initiative and the need for better alignment and integration for several years and with every audience – especially our chapter leaders. It has been discussed at the Chapter Leaders Conference (our annual gathering of more than 300 chapter leaders and executives) for several years about what needed to be centralized throughout the organization to create a better future for FPA. We’ve had dozens of volunteers sitting on various task forces over the last few years and have provided regular updates. 

Bob Veres comment: If FPA members have known all along (Since 2015?  Since 2017?) that the FPA was planning to dissolve the chapter legal entities and consolidate all chapter finances into a single account, then I owe you and the FPA an apology.  If you haven’t, then perhaps you could ask your chapter leaders.  I am willing to offer my sincerest apologies if THEY have been apprised of these proposed changes all along.

“I suspect, but don’t know, that the FPA home office covets the financial resources of the chapters.”

FPA’s Perspective:

There is no plan or intent to grab chapter assets. Under the OneFPA Network, our chapters control their budgets and reserves. Our chapters are critical to the FPA member experience, and they will keep doing the great work they are doing. But by using an integrated accounting/financial system, we can use the power of our collective size to help support our chapters and members. In addition, through participatory governance, chapter leaders will populate OneFPA finance related committees that provide direction to the national organization’s business plan and budget. FPA does not “covet the resources of the chapters,” – on the contrary, under the OneFPA Network, chapter leaders will have more input when it comes to the finances of the entire organization. 

We are already planning a full virtual meeting early in 2019 with all chapter leaders on FPA’s 2018 financials and recent historical finances. Following that update to chapter leaders will be a financial update to all members.

Bob Veres comment:  I’m very much looking forward to seeing the FPA’s historical finances.  The national conference and Retreat, and the Journal, are potentially very strong business opportunities that, under sound stewardship, should be producing significant revenues for the organization.  Under a strong FPA, membership should be growing, due to a growing list of member benefits coming from the home office that are relevant to your business life.  If the FPA had quoted more extensively from my commentary, you’d see that I was questioning the historical effectiveness of home office stewardship of those resources.  I was comparing that track record to the effective management I see at the chapter level.

“Advertisers tend to flock where readers are paying attention, so this can be considered a direct reflection of how much the Journal is being read by FPA members.”

FPA’s Perspective:

The Journal of Financial Planning has been at the cutting-edge of the profession for nearly 40 years and it is consistently rated as one of the benefits our members appreciate the most. While ads do appear in the Journal, the publication exists to expand the body of knowledge in the financial planning profession, and our editorial team does an outstanding job in ensuring the content is dynamic and engaging. Our members appreciate the Journal because of the quality of the content and the many contributors who are helping to build knowledge in the profession. 

Bob Veres comment:  In my comments, I noted that the Journal is lucky to get 10 pages of advertising per issue—and I don’t think the letter disagrees with this.

“Similarly, the 2018 FPA Convention attracted 31 exhibitors.  Our Insider’s Forum conference—a much smaller meeting—attracted more than 40.”

FPA’s Perspective:

The 2018 FPA Annual Conference hosted 122 exhibitors from across the country. 

Bob Veres comment:  Apparently I was mistaken, and I apologize.  I took this information directly from the FPA’s website (you can see it here: https://fpaannual.org/partners/), where it lists 31 Cornerstone, Strategic, silver or bronze sponsors.   

But this is a part of my column that I have to apologize for.

“The FPA also manages the annual Retreat, which was once quite a successful conference. I have been told, anecdotally, that it has been losing money recently.”

FPA’s Perspective:

FPA Retreat is a conference developed by a task force of volunteer leaders who are passionate about the event and have been for years. The conference attracts the best and brightest in the profession and FPA’s business plan commitment is to operate Retreat at least on a break-even basis, and that is exactly what we have done for years. We were excited to see a complete property sell-out for the 2018 event in Litchfield Park, AZ. 

Bob Veres comment:  I am glad to hear that the Retreat is supposed, according to the business plan, to be operated at least on a break-even basis.  I’m noticing that the response doesn’t say that it HAS operated on at least a break-even basis, but perhaps I’m quibbling too much.  I offer my apology.

“The best management of resources seems to be taking place, currently, at the chapter level, and this is where we find most of the engagement and energy.  Would it make sense to give that up and put the chapters under the control of the part of the FPA that has poorly managed its larger resources?”

FPA’s Perspective:

The OneFPA Network is not about criticizing our chapters’ and volunteer leaders’ ability to manage their resources. It’s about better using our collective resources where we can to eliminate redundancy and integrate what we do across the system to benefit all stakeholders. 89 different legal entities with 89 different accounting systems and 89 different technology platforms is just not good business for the organization nor the profession. FPA’s national volunteer leaders are skilled financial planners and follow the most strict and responsible financial and fiduciary guidelines in managing the resources of FPA. 

Bob Veres comment:  I found this a bit odd: I wasn’t criticizing the chapter and volunteer leaders; in fact, I was saying that they seem, as a group, to have been excellent stewards of their resources and opportunities, both for generating local revenues and for providing the bulk of the FPA’s member benefits despite operating with between one-quarter and one-eighth of the dues that the FPA national enjoys. 

Kudos to them!  I hope they will be able to continue doing so.

“I also think it was probably a strategic error to keep this very powerful, transformative initiative under wraps for four years before suddenly unveiling it to the membership.  Maybe I’m the only one who has been kept safely out of the loop, but it seems from here like the FPA declined to share some very important thinking with the membership until the decision process was well down the road.”

FPA’s Perspective:

We respectfully disagree with the language here, as the OneFPA Initiative has not been “kept under wraps for four years.” Speak with any number of chapter leaders about the work we have been doing – as a community – to envision a brighter future through the OneFPA Initiative. We have worked with dozens of national and local volunteer leaders and chapter executives on this initiative since the beginning and have taken steps to share information with our stakeholders on an ongoing basis.

Bob Veres comment:  This is clearly a sore point with FPA’s leadership, that I would imply that they haven’t been regularly communicating the details of the OneFPA Network initiative to the chapter leaders and members.  I’ve already offered my apology, on the condition that if FPA members, reading this, knew that the FPA was proposing to dissolve the local chapter entities and consolidate the chapter finances into a single account at headquarters—or even if you were aware that the FPA was planning to broaden the input to include a new Council of 90-100 chapter leaders, and the details thereof.  If you were in this loop, please accept my apology for implying otherwise.

“My prediction is that the FPA membership is not going to be supportive of an initiative that centralizes and consolidates both decision making and the finances of chapters with headquarters. Allowing chapter leaders to function as a ‘sounding board’ for the organization as a whole doesn’t sound like much of an improvement over the way things stand now.”

FPA’s Perspective:

Members tell us they care about value, benefits and achieving our goals and purpose as an organization. Decision-making will absolutely be more democratized through an institutionalized participatory governance process under the OneFPA Network. And again, centralization of certain functions will support the enhanced delivery of services of programs by the chapters to the members. It is not about exercising control over the money or programs of chapters. 

Bob Veres comment:  I find myself respectfully disagreeing.  This gets to what may be the key question: Will centralization of functions lead to better chapter programs?  I predicted that the membership won’t think so, and after reading through this letter, and going through the interview process, I still believe that.  But that’s a judgement for the CFP advisors who are members, and their chapter leaders, to make.

“My supportive suggestion is that the FPA, instead of raiding the piggy banks of the chapters, instead work harder to maximize the revenue-generating resources at its disposal—the conference, the Retreat and the magazine—which, under strong leadership, could provide considerable supportive cash flow to support vigorous headquarters-generated member benefits that would supplement the great work that is taking place at the chapter level.”

FPA’s Perspective:

FPA’s national volunteer leaders have been and are being straight forward with our chapter leaders. There is no underhanded or insidious plan to “raid the piggy banks” of chapters.     

In summary, the OneFPA Network has been a multi-year collaboration with many FPA leaders, including many chapter leaders, who implored FPA to fix some of the endemic issues that are plaguing the traditional way that volunteer professional membership associations operate. At the heart of FPA is the dynamic quilt of leaders and members who create a diversity of thought and opinion that makes us unique. The OneFPA Network is an expansion of that diversity by further democratizing strategic planning and decision making to create one greater organization while maintaining local control of services, programs, and finances. The OneFPA Network initiative is a courageous effort to create the professional association of the future now with one goal in mind – enhance the member experience and achieve our purpose: To Elevate the Profession that Transforms Lives through the Power of Financial Planning. 

Bob Veres comment:  Sometimes I read through the things I have written and wince.  I apologize for suggesting that the FPA headquarters intended on “raiding the piggy banks” of the chapters; that was too strong, and probably misleads about the intent of the people I interviewed.  For that, I apologize.

But the more I think about this initiative, the more I believe that, through the nationalization of local sponsorship programs, through the process of requiring chapters to submit business plans and budgets to headquarters in the name of enhancing the overall experience, the chapters will eventually be forced to do more with less, and the headquarters will have more resources to do… what? 

I certainly could be wrong, but my point—missed, I think, in this response—was that the FPA headquarters already has at its disposal some marvelous revenue-generating resources (conferences and magazine) which seem not to be robust under current stewardship.  In my column, I suggested a renewed vigor toward maximizing those resources, and using their revenues to produce robust member benefits at the national level to supplement the great work the chapters are doing.  Is that too much to ask?

Sincerely,

The 2018 FPA Board of Directors

Frank Paré, CFP®-2018 FPA President (FPA of the East Bay)

Shannon J. Pike, CFP®-2018 FPA Chair (FPA of Houston)

Evelyn M. Zohlen, CFP®-2018 FPA President-elect (FPA of Orange County)

Molly Balunek, CFP®, AEP® (FPA of Northeast Ohio)

Kimberly Bridges, Ph.D., CFP®, CPWA®, CDFA (FPA of Greater Phoenix)

Ann Reilly Dowd, CFP® (FPA of Massachusetts)

Chris Draughon, CFP® (FPA of Northeast Florida)

Tony Mahabir, MBA, CFP, CMC, CIM, RRC

Dennis J. Moore, MBA, CFP® (FPA of Dallas/Fort Worth)

John R. (Dick) Power, CFP® (FPA of Massachusetts)

Skip Schweiss (FPA of Colorado)

Martin Seay, Ph.D., CFP® (FPA of Greater Kansas City)

Michael Shockley, JD, CFP® (FPA of Dallas/Fort Worth)

Todd Stanard, CFP®, ChFC, CRPC (FPA of New Jersey)

Lauren M. Schadle, CAE-Executive Director/CEO

Leave a Comment