This is a time of high anxiety in the financial planning industry: Regulators are on the prowl, there's as much volatility in the U.S. markets as you might find in frontier markets and the nation's economic recovery could hardly be weaker. And yet financial planning remains a compelling profession to build a business in.

The winners and runners-up of this year's Financial Planning Influencer Awards (p. 66) are proof that the industry is awash in innovative ideas to attract clients, build - and protect - client assets and practice profits, and guide the careers of younger advisors.

The chairman-elect of the CFP Board of Directors, Alan Goldfarb, was this year's winner of the Legacy Builder Award for his devotion to mentoring younger colleagues. Some of his efforts encourage youthful enthusiasm, but he also wants his young charges to be practical and savvy about the challenges headed their way. "Students have a lot of unrealistic expectations," he observes.

David Grant also wants young planners to be realistic and have access to seasoned counsel. By helping to establish the National Association of Personal Financial Planners' Genesis group, a networking and support organization for new advisors, Grant has helped make the particularly difficult first years in the business more manageable for many planners. That's why he takes home an Influencer Award as Industry Contributor of the Year.

When the editors of Financial Planning sat down one recent evening to review all of the Influencer nominations, we wound up with the happy problem of having too many potential winners (leading us to name seven notables, as well). Beyond Goldfarb and Grant, we were also struck by the work of Kathleen Miller, who's making personal finance an integral part of divorce settlements and won our Practice Management Award; Greg Friedman, an advisor who used his planning expertise to help develop ubiquitous planner software, earning him our Tech Innovator Award; Todd Millay, who's made many people rethink their approach to risk, which brought him our Wealth Creator Award; and Bob Veres, who captured the Lifetime Achievement Award. We felt a bit conflicted because of Bob's role as a freelance columnist for FP, but it was clear his decades of service - helping to explain the unexplainable and making sense of what sometimes seems like nonsense - deserved our recognition.

With all the great work amid trying times, the conclusion of our judging process made me think about the unknown. Which big thinkers and bold innovators have eluded our attention? Whose leadership will stand out in the years to come? As you read about the winners of Financial Planning's 2011 Influencer Awards, start thinking about nominations for 2012.

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