WASHINGTON -- Alarmed that the registered investment advisor industry is outmanned and outspent on Capitol Hill, TD Ameritrade Institutional is preparing to launch an online hub to stoke activism among financial advisors on an array of policy issues.

TD Ameritrade Institutional plans this fall to debut its eAdvocacy forum, which will reside on the firm’s website and offer information and action alerts to advisors as lawmakers and regulators weigh hot-button issues such as the fiduciary standard and how to increase advisor examinations.

“It’s an e-world, and we need to make things easy for advisors,” Skip Schweiss, managing director of advisor advocacy at TD Ameritrade Institutional, said here Tuesday during a keynote at the firm’s Fiduciary Leadership Summit. “This is a lot about keeping advisors informed, involved and connected, and really involved is what we're looking for here.”

When it launches later, the eAdvocacy forum, which is powered by tools from public relations software firm Vocus, will offer information such as digested versions of relevant legislation, regulations and academic research.

'VERY, VERY BUSY PEOPLE'

“Investment advisors don’t spend their lives in Washington doing these things,” Schweiss said.

“At best, they pay attention sort of peripherally, don't really have the time. When a thousand-page bill comes out or a 100-page regulation, there’s no way they can read all that,” Schweiss said.

“So part of our role in life is to do that for them, and then downloading it to advisors in a variety of formats,” he said.

The service comes with an acknowledgment that independent advisors, as a cohort, aren’t a particularly strong presence on Capitol Hill, particularly when viewed alongside the brokerage industry.

Indeed, as trade groups such as the Financial Planning Association and the Investment Adviser Association have been working to build support for their legislative priorities, executives say that their lobbying efforts would be more effective if lawmakers were hearing the same message from industry practitioners back in their districts.

“One thing you’ll also hear from the association heads in particular is, ‘Boy, I really, really wish the advisors would get more involved,’” Schweiss said.

“We realize advisors are very, very busy people. You’re running businesses,” Schweiss said.

'WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST'

According to TD Ameritrade Institutional’s analysis of lobbying spending so far in the 2014 campaigns, SIFMA has spent $3.96 million, followed by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, which has spent $1.4 million.

Barely registering on that scale are the IAA, which has spent $80,000, and the FPA, at $40,000.

“This is what we’re up against in terms of messaging, in terms of lobbying,” Schweiss said. “We've started to think about how can we bring advisors in.”

The eAdvocacy platform will push out information about issues such as the fiduciary rules under consideration at the SEC and invite harried advisors who might not otherwise have the time or inclination to involve themselves in a grassroots effort to make their voices heard.

The site will offer a directory of lawmakers and their staff members, searchable by ZIP code, allowing advisors to send off an email to their congressional office, and publish educational content such as news updates and summaries of legislation and research on what Schweiss calls an “online advocacy hub.”

“It will allow us to involve advisors in grassroots campaigns,” he said. “This is something that will enable us to better organize grassroots campaigns and connect advisors to Capitol Hill and key members and staff members as well.”

Kenneth Corbin is a Financial Planning contributing writer in Washington.

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