WASHINGTON -- As the Financial Services Institute marks its tenth anniversary, the trade group is focused on expanding its advisor membership and ramping up its advocacy on legislation and regulation at the state level.

Mike Mungenast, FSI's chairman for 2014, outlined the organization's priorities for the coming year during the opening session of the annual OneVoice conference in Washington, D.C.

In broad strokes, Mungenast described FSI's ongoing efforts to educate policy makers about the intricacies of the business model of independent advisors, a class of professionals who are "leading entrepreneurs in their community and take their duty to their customers seriously."

"FSI is not only the leading organization that advocates on behalf of independent financial advisors and broker-dealers, we are the only organization that carries this as its primary purpose for existence. We must continue to carry this one voice forward to federal and state legislators, FINRA, SEC and state regulators," Mungenast said. "We must continue to stress to them that independent financial advisors are the backbone of financial advice provided to Middle America."

The group will continue to advocate for advisors to be allowed to retain the classification of independent contractors at the state and federal level, and to oppose any efforts to impose new taxes on the provision of financial advice.

The FSI fully intends to keep an active role in the policy debates concerning advisors in the nation's capital, but in 2014, the group is planning to step up its work at the state level. Mungenast said that the FSI has set aside additional resources for state-level lobbying

"We have to increase the effectiveness of our advocacy with state regulators and state legislators," he said. "We have earmarked resources to this cause and are regularly meeting with the NASAA broker-dealer and investment advisory sections and are looking for ways to work together to further financial literacy and work on eldercare issues."

The FSI is hoping that advisors will play a more prominent role in its advocacy work, Mungenast said, emphasizing that the group intends to work to "deepen the engagement of our financial advisor members."

In addition to the policy staff that the FSI maintains to shape its positions on legislative and regulatory issues, the group is beefing up the "relationship staff" that communicates with member firms and advisors to gin up grass-roots advocacy campaigns, Mungenast said.

The organization is also undertaking a concerted effort to grow its membership, with a specific focus on independent advisors. At the end of 2013, the FSI counted more than 37,000 advisors as members, and more than 100,000 broker-dealers -- substantial numbers, but ones that the FSI would like to increase as it tries to position itself as the voice of the industry.

"To grow our membership, we need more FSI firms enrolling members in mass-membership campaigns," Mungenast said. "Without a large and active advisor base, we will not be as strong as we can be in our advocacy efforts, no matter how strong our positions."

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