Financial services group looks to grow membership
Society offers education, networking opportunitiesFebruary 2nd, 2017
Having celebrated the 72nd anniversary of its founding last month, the Spokane chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals is looking to expand its membership and continue its efforts to educate consumers on financial services.
The group’s current president, Michael Metcalf, of Spokane Valley-based Metcalf Financial Services Inc., says its purpose is to provide continuing education and ethical guidance to financial professionals to help them better serve their clients.
“The society provides education and networking opportunities to members, which in turn benefits the larger community, as our members help their clients to achieve personal and business-related financial goals,” says Metcalf.
FSP society members include financial service professionals who provide financial planning, estate planning, retirement counseling, asset management, and other services and products to their clients.
The society requires its members either to have or to be actively pursuing one or more of sixteen recognized financial service designations, or a graduate degree in financial services.
Some of the more common designations include certified financial planner (CFP), certified public accountant (CPA), chartered life underwriter (CLU), and chartered financial consultant (ChFC).
In addition to pursuing professional designations, Metcalf says, “You also can’t have any record of ethical violations, as we take an oath to treat our clients honorably.”
Metcalf says members are given access to a network of professionals with a shared commitment to ethical conduct and services, and also have access to resources and publications, and ongoing learning, leadership, and service opportunities. Monthly membership fees are $40 for young professionals (those under the age of 40), and $65 for others.
While there are currently 46 members in the Spokane chapter, Metcalf says membership has been declining, and the Spokane group is looking to increase its recruitment efforts.
“We’re a multidisciplinary organization, so we also accept those with certifications in fields related to financial planning, such as attorneys, bank trust officers, and actuaries,” he says. “Usually, we approach potential members, but occasionally we’ll be contacted through our website, or add members that have transferred from other chapters.”
Metcalf says the group meets twice a month at the Spokane Club downtown to talk over current trends in the financial industry, as well as to gather problem-solving ideas to use in their own practices.
He says recent meetings have focused on topics such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule, as well as upcoming changes in taxes, Social Security, business succession, and retirement planning.
Set to go into effect this April, unless President Trump suspends it before then, the new fiduciary rule would bring more investment advisers under an existing fiduciary standard that requires financial advisers to put their clients’ best interests ahead of their own revenues.
“There are many different areas of financial life, so our members each have their own practices that emphasize different things,” Metcalf says. “At these meetings, you’re surrounded by other professionals, some of whom you might otherwise view as potential competitors, but we come together to educate one another on the latest financial issues affecting our practices and share solutions.”
Another of the society’s members, Jim Lusk, an executive partner with the Spokane office of New York Life Insurance Co., says the group’s discussions are part of what it likes to call the pro-puzzle exercise.
“One of us will share an example case and ask for problem-solving ideas,” he says. “It’s a good tool because you’re able to see problems through the lenses of a different professional. For example, an attorney may have a different take on the issue than, say, an accountant.”
Dick Tiffany, owner of Spokane-based Tiffany Financial Group, serves as the Spokane chapter’s current secretary and treasurer. He says belonging to the organization represents a time commitment, with most members being older, experienced professionals.
“Most members are on the mature side, people who’ve been in the financial industry awhile, who’ve taken the time to earn their credentials and stay informed on current financial laws,” he says.
According to Lusk, the time commitment needed for required certifications has become a larger factor in the decline in younger members joining FSP in recent years.
“In general, we haven’t done much to promote careers in finance to the younger generation,” says Lusk. “It used to be there were twice as many agents, and more women CLUs (chartered life underwriters). With older professionals retiring, there is a huge opportunity now for careers in this field, so our focus is on recruiting the younger generation.”
Freda Zimmerman, a financial adviser with Zimmerman & Associates and another of the society’s members, agrees that time, expenses, and lack of experience are all factors in the lack of young financial industry professionals joining the society.
“The youngest recruits we see aren’t usually under the age of 30,” says Zimmerman. “It takes time and money to get the credentials needed, and even then many younger people don’t consider a career in this area until they’re more experienced.”
Although its members usually are actively engaged in their community, she says the group is less about community service and more about education and networking.
“We’re all professionals in a particular field, so our aim is different than community service groups or clubs,” Zimmerman says. “Our goal is to provide professional-level service in financial and estate planning to better serve our clients and their families. We’re also one of the first organizations in the nation that was started in order to train others in financial planning.”
Tiffany says he agrees that the society offers its members good networking and educational opportunities.
“For financial service professionals, this organization is similar to what the American Medical Association is for doctors,” he says. “That group did a lot to help recognize professionals in the medical field, acknowledging their experience and continued commitment to learning.”
Lusk says it’s that same level of professionalism that the group is hoping to better educate the public about.
“It’s like picking your doctor,” he says. “This is someone you’re trusting with your money, so we want people to know where to look for professional financial advice. We want them to be asking ‘Is my financial adviser a member of this organization?’ and if the answer is no, they should be asking, ‘Why not?’”
In addition to its goals of recruiting members and raising consumer awareness, Metcalf says one item he would like to see the group tackle is creating a public seminar on basic financial skills.
“We don’t usually do public seminars, but there are many people who don’t have a background in basic skills like balancing a checkbook or organizing a budget,” he says. “I think an event like that has the potential to make a really good impact.”
The Newtown, Penn.-based Society of Financial Service Professionals was founded in 1928 by graduates of The American College, a nonprofit private educational institution located in Bryn Mawr, Penn. The organization now has about 15,000 members in 160 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Singapore.