With a changing (and aging) membership, the Financial Planning Association is focusing on ways to remain as relevant as possible in a digital era.

Since taking over as the FPA’s chief executive six months ago, Lauren Schadle has made operational and staffing changes, reducing committees by nearly half. Going forward, she says her most important goal is making sure the FPA is a vital professional association for the next generation of planners. Leveraging technology to better serve members is an important part of that focus.

“Members need to access the organization whenever and wherever,” says Schadle, in an interview with the editors of Financial Planning. “We recognize that we need to make changes to accommodate that.”

The organization is considering ways to deliver resources to members beyond face-to-face conferences, she says. This may soon include hybrid conferences where attendees can receive information in-person or remotely via streamed sessions. It also means making association sites more “mobile friendly,” she adds. FPA Connect, the association’s online social platform for members, for example, recently released a mobile application for that purpose.  

FPA’s NexGen community of planners younger than 36 is another key piece of the focus on the FPA’s future membership. Started in 2004, the NexGen has grown to more than 1,000 members and is meant to help get younger planners into positions of leadership in the organization, says FPA President Mike Branham, who joined the  interview with Schadle.

In thinking about how to best serve their membership, Branham says practice management appears to be the top priority. Members tend to be most interested in what the FPA calls “business success” resources. More specifically, advisors who are looking to grow want information about how to run their practices. “Advisors are really good at what they do, but not necessarily good business people,” Branham says.

Reflecting the generational shifts the FPA is trying to keep up with, succession planning information and resources are in high demand among planners now. Many advisors are wondering how to monetize the practices they have spent years building, Branham says.

However, this demand may shift as the membership does, with older planners eventually retiring and leaving the association. “If we were not doing the work to address this, I’d be worried,” Schadle says, “but we’re on it.”

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