Depending on how you define it, the modern profession of financial planning is perhaps 40 years old. A persistent debate among planners - and, increasingly, on Capitol Hill - is how to turn the industry into a formally recognized profession with the kind of clout, credentials and protections afforded to the medical and legal fields. The answer to that question will come only over time.

But the form it takes will be shaped in no small part by the efforts of farsighted leaders within the industry. We at Financial Planning honor six of these individuals with our third annual Influencer Awards. We considered exceptional nominations in six categories: Lifetime Achievement, Industry Contributor, Practice Management, Tech Innovator, Portfolio Innovator and New Generation Contributor. After debate, discussion and research, we made our choices and came to realize that each of these leaders, in his or her own way, is making substantial contributions to the evolution of the entire industry, to this ultimate goal of greater professionalization.

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