With Marv Tuttle announcement that he would retire in 2014 from his post as executive director and CEO of the Financial Planning Association, the organization now has the difficult task of about finding a successor.
Considering Tuttle’s contributions to the profession, two years’ notice ought to be just enough time. Over the last 29 years, he has been a tireless advocate for providing quality independent, fiduciary advice to consumers.
“He probably is the person that has the broadest knowledge of our profession,” says Mark Johannessen, a 2008, FPA past president. Johannessen is also a managing director at Harris SBSB, a financial planning firm in McLean, Va. “He is in the present and the future for the profession, and has been very involved in taking us from an industry to a profession.”
Johannessen was at the town hall meeting at the FPA Retreat in Scottsdale, Ariz., when Tuttle announced his plans to a crowd that gave him a standing ovation afterward.
Tuttle simply told the crowd that it was time for him to move on, especially after having turning 60, advocating for the profession for 30 years and serving in his capacity for 10, Johannessen says.
But every FPA member hasn’t always been in Tuttle’s corner. Financial Planning columnist Bob Veres had some harsh words for Tuttle in a November column. Veres wrote, “In my view, the FPA board has exhibited almost saintlike patience with CEO Marvin Tuttle while the organization has been faltering. Does the buck stop with him, or elsewhere?”
As for who might tackle Tuttle’s job in 2014, none of the industry professionals contacted offered specific names, saying the news was still fresh and that the FPA would have two years to plan for a successor.
In 2004, Tuttle spearheaded an FPA lawsuit against investment advisors’ own regulator, the SEC, becoming the first small organization to oppose the regulator in that fashion, says Duane Thompson, president of Potomac Strategies, a consulting firm in Kensington, MD. The so-called “Merrill Lynch Rule” would have allowed broker-dealers to provide fee-based investment advice without being required to register with the SEC as investment advisors.
The rule was eventually overturned in 2007. Broker dealers who had amassed $300 billion in client assets under the new rule were forced to turn those assets over to investment advisor accounts. “It was a huge undertaking, and the broker dealers were not happy about that,” Thompson says.
The suit emboldened smaller groups, including hedge funds to take on the SEC over policies that they felt were unfair, says Thompson. But it was not easy, initially.
“There is no question the board was reluctant to sue,” Thompson says. “It was a big step for a relatively small organization, and it was the first and only time the FPA had ever sued an agency. Until then, no other entity had actually sued the SEC over an agency rule.”
But the profession’s well being trumped any other concerns, and professionals say it represented a way of thinking that marked Tuttle’s era with the FPA.
Advocating fair policies for independent advisors and financial planners was just one way in which Tuttle helped the profession mature, says Thompson. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tuttle spearheaded the creation of a pro bono financial planning program to benefit the victim’s families. After that, the FPA’s pro bono program has expanded to offer professional financial planning services to other families in need.
Tuttle also created the Journal of Financial Planning, at one of the organization’s legacy groups, the Institute of Certified Financial Planners. The journal publishes academic, peer-reviewed articles, and has also gone a long way in shaping elevating the profession’s thinking, says Thompson.