The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors announced this week that Geoffrey Brown will step down from his role as CEO effective Nov. 15, 2022.
The NAPFA Board of Directors, led by Chair Karla McAvoy until the end of the month, will conduct a search to fill the position and expects to engage an interim CEO immediately following Brown’s departure. The announcement came three days after Financial Advisor reported that the Financial Planning Association intends to depart the triad Financial Planning Coalition—comprising FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board of Standards—at the end of the year.
The former has nothing to do with the latter, according to Brown and McAvoy, who both noted that NAPFA membership has more than doubled over Brown’s 9-year tenure—from around 2,000 members to more than 4,400 today.
“I just feel really good about where the organization is,” Brown said. “We've grown in membership. The board just adopted a new three-year strategic framework that'll get underway on Sept. 1. We've got a great team and all the conditions are right.
“I feel good stepping away and, you know, I was just presented with a really great professional opportunity to lead the Illinois CPA society,” he said. “And so I'm really looking forward to taking that next jump in my career.”
Brown, who is himself a certified association executive, will start his new position as the president and CEO of The Illinois CPA Society on Dec. 5. With more than 22,600 members, it is one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation.
Brown’s replacement will likely be another management professional, said McAvoy. “This is a person that will be responding to and working with a wide number of people,” she said, including staff, members, government agencies and consumers. “We want somebody who can speak and communicate effectively with all these groups. I think we need a really strategic thinker—Geoff has been fantastic in that regard, and it’s really changed the way that we think about the years ahead for the organization.”
“Certainly,” she added, “a person who’s coming into this position should understand financial planning and really embrace the fiduciary planning that this organization is all about.”
No names have surfaced for either the permanent or interim position yet, she said, but the search is still in preliminary stages.
Brown and McAvoy both expressed disappointment with the FPA’s decision to leave the Financial Planning Coalition, which was established a dozen years ago to further recognition and gain protections for professional financial advisors. While the departure hasn’t been formally announced (and won’t be, according to the FA report) the move will ostensibly allow the FPA to focus on efforts to achieve title protections to try and prevent uncertified and untrained practitioners from calling themselves financial planners.
“We're certainly disappointed,” said Brown. “You know, we think that the profession is best served when the three leading organizations can speak with one unified voice on many policy issues. They decided that their resources and time will be better spent not collaborating through the coalition.”
NAPFA stands behind title protection, said McAvoy and Brown, but is not actively working toward that as an immediate goal. More important is the organization’s longstanding push for “a uniform, nationwide fiduciary standard of care for all personalized advice.”
FPA is the only coalition member that does not explicitly bind its advisors to fiduciary standards of care. With around 19,000 members, it accounts for roughly 20% of total coalition membership.
“We’re always focused on recognition and regulation of financial planning as a separate profession,” Brown said, but financial literacy; diversity, equity and inclusion; retirement security; senior protections; and tax-deductible advisory and planning fees are all public policy themes on which NAPFA is focused.
“I think going forward, it's going to be important for all of the organizations that have an opportunity to advocate on behalf of financial planners to identify those issues where we have common ground, for the benefit of the profession and the benefit of the public,” he said. “It's important to take advantage of those positions and speak with one voice where it's possible.”
At the end of the month, McAvoy will be stepping down from her position as board chair at the end of her year-long tenure and will be replaced by Chair-Elect Jeff Jones, partner and director of financial planning at Longview Financial Advisors in Huntsville, Ala. Last week, Buckingham Strategic Wealth President Wendy Hartman was named as his successor and will serve as Chair-Elect until taking the seat on Sept. 1, 2023.