Giant Cakes and Good Vibes: Takeaways from FPA Annual Conference 2019

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FPAselects-253.jpgIt isn’t often that you attend a conference where there’s a giant cake, a great party and fantastic giveaways.

Keith Beverly, CFA, CFP,®, said the one negative thing about FPA Annual Conference was that he didn’t attend years ago.

“Free massages should be mandatory at all conferences,” Beverly said.

But giant cakes and free massages aside, FPA Annual Conference was packed with information that is relevant to your practices. Here is what I found most interesting from the sessions I attended.

Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?

The New Yorker journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar noted, in a particularly sobering general session, that the rise of artificial intelligence across sectors has generally led to a decline in jobs for humans. While economists have predicted that the elimination of certain jobs due to AI will lead to creation of different jobs, it hasn’t always lived up to that promise. She noted two types of artificial intelligence: replacing and helping. Replacing AI replaces human labor, while helping AI helps humans be more efficient at their jobs.

While AI can likely memorize more things than you, and can make a financial plan, it doesn’t yet have the same emotional intelligence quotient as you do. Though some news reports indicate that is only a few decades off. Kolhatkar talked about Amelia, a robot being tested specifically to replace human workers in white collar jobs. Amelia speaks 20 languages and can handle multiple issues at once.

Let’s hope Amelia doesn’t get her CFP® certification.

The Competition is Stiff for New Talent, But There’s Good News on the Horizon

Kate Healy, managing director of generation next at TD Ameritrade Institutional, notes that there are approximately 100,000 advisers who are expected to retire within the next decade. We have 40 percent fewer advisers today than we had in 2008, and only 25 percent of the American population is getting financial planning, she said.

“There is a really large untapped market that we need to serve,” Healy told FPA Annual Conference attendees. Healy noted we’re only graduating around 200 students a year in CFP Board Registered programs. Clearly, the pipeline of future planners isn’t enough to fill the impending gap in the number of planners.

Maybe we need Amelia to get her CFP® certification after all.

But there is good news, Healy said. For the first time the average age of advisers has dropped below 50—it’s now 49, and more women and black and Latino professionals are entering the profession.

“We’re seeing progress,” Healy said. “We’ve been doing this for a decade and we’re finally starting to get it.”

72350361_169761577543545_4690210948449828864_n.jpgThis year saw the first-ever diversity and inclusion reception, where people came together the night before the conference kicked off to get to know each other. It was also here that FPA Diversity Committee chair Charles Adi, CFP® (pictured right with Catalina Franco-Cicero, CFP®), announced the launch of the newest Knowledge Circle—the African American Knowledge Circle. This group joins the ranks of the PridePlanners and FPA Latino Knowledge Circles.

This reception was a favorite of attendee Dejah Gay, CFP®.

“I was thoroughly impressed with the FPA’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment and appreciative of the opportunity to have open dialogue about the topic with industry peers,” Gay said. “Also, being able to meet and exchange experiences and ideas with so many other attendees the first day really gave me a sense of community throughout the remainder of the conference.”

Beverly said in talking to students, he found there is still an opportunity to expand recruitment efforts.

“We need to attract more students of color to financial planning programs,” Beverly said. “The three [students] I met were from schools where the students of color represented less than 2 percent of students in the program.  We need to start earlier with our recruitment efforts.”

Your Clients Are Super Stressed Out, and It Could Lead to Bigger Problems

They are stressed out and their stress levels might raise their risk of heart attack because when we’re stressed, we do things like excessively drink and overeat. A session by the American Heart Association noted that 70 percent of Americans say their finances are the No. 1 cause of stress.

But it turns out, if your clients are charitable, they actually have lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels. Maybe you should encourage your clients to better manage their stress and donate more to charities.

But many things cause clients stress—not just money. And these challenges require more training on the art of financial planning. The many sessions that tackled this were most helpful for Kamila McDonnough, CFP®.

“I was excited to see how many of the sessions focus on the soft skills of planning. I enjoyed the sessions on working with clients that enable, married couples and [couples with] low AUM,” McDonnough said. “It reinforces, for advisers and others, that financial planning is much more than the asset allocation and how the FPA provides tools to assists advisers in these areas.”

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Be Grateful, Learn to Love the Learning Process, and Be Prepared

Justice Alan Page, former Minnesota Viking and Pro Football Hall of Famer, was always quick in school and got things relatively easy. So he kind of coasted through, getting good grades but not really enjoying learning.

It wasn’t until his second go at law school (he dropped out the first time) that he began to fully love the learning process.

Instead of seeing your CE requirements as something to check off a to-do list, learn to really absorb the things you’re reading about and being quizzed on. Also, Justice Page said, do what you do as well as you possibly can and prepare well.

“Preparation is how we get things done,” Page said. “Being as prepared as you can will give you the greatest opportunity to achieve the particular goal that you’re working on.”

Beverly said he enjoyed the general session with Page the most.

“He’s a brilliant man with a lifelong commitment to social justice and racial equity,” Beverly said. “It was motivating to hear how he began shaping his legacy at an early age and has been steadfast over many decades. He also has a great sense of humor and offered some memorable quotes.”

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Embrace Challenges

The Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park is 3,000 feet of straight up granite. It has 32 different pitches. It took seven years for Kevin Jorgeson to conquer.

Jorgeson’s story is one of reinvention. The former competitor in bouldering had never done big wall climbing before.

I know—a former boulderer conquering that feat is impressive, but can we just take a moment to recognize that his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell, still does these big wall climbs after cutting off his finger?! Talk about embracing challenges.

While you can’t ease your client’s stress by telling them to embrace challenges and be grateful you can try to ease your own stress by reframing challenges to be something that you look forward to and remember fondly when they’re over.

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It’s the Year of Generation Next

Something was different about this year’s FPA Annual Conference. The students have always been there, but this year, they were not just about the student-only events. Students were mingling and learning at sessions, sitting down and networking with future employers and FPA staff, and representing their schools well. Not that they hadn’t done that in previous years, but this year, students seemed particularly impressive.

FPA NexGen events were packed with students and NexGen leaders who have an infectious passion for the financial planning profession, sharing tips and knowledge and welcoming new planners and future planners into the fold.

NexGen veteran and 2019 FPA president-elect Martin Seay, Ph.D., CFP®, noted that there are currently more CFP® professionals older than 70 than under 30.

“That means there are a lot of folks that worked really hard to build this profession that will retire at some point,” he said at the FPA NexGen Town Hall. “We need more of you and there are opportunities.”

But learning and being successful isn’t about reinventing the wheel, he noted, rather, “it’s about learning from the folks who came before you.”

And 2019 FPA NexGen president-elect Alexandria Davis announced the fun news that NexGen Gathering will be held in June 2020 in Las Vegas, dates to be determined. She also encouraged students and new planners to get involved in their local chapter and take advantage of their FPA membership, noting that NexGen membership is part of that, not a separate membership.

Franco-Cicero said her top takeaway from conference was, “The importance of passing the torch from the current generation of planners to the new one entering the field. I felt that this year’s conference created a space that allowed for professional friendships to develop and others to continue to be nourished.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn

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