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The ‘Better’ Side of Wall Street

Inside NAPA

My term as NAPA President has come to an end. I am thankful that I have had this opportunity. It was quite a year, with the fantastic conferences and events put on by NAPA. Whether you are a new plan advisor trying to learn the basics or a senior plan advisor looking to share idea with your peers, NAPA has it covered.  

As I reflect over the past 12 months, there are certain things that I know are true, and I would like to share three of them with you.

Mentorship Matters

As many of us would agree, you don’t go to college to be a retirement plan advisor. It is an industry that most of us fell into by accident in some way. However, our industry is maturing, and mentoring others is important. I have recently started to hire younger advisors and love helping them understand the retirement plan industry. My mentor 24 years ago was a man, and he is still who I call when I need advice. A great mentor will be your sounding board because if you are like me, there will be times you need someone to give you independent advice.

My advice is: Don’t wait for someone to come knocking on your door to either ask you to mentor them or ask if you want a mentor. Be proactive. For example, I wanted to grow our team and bring in more women, so I went to the Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team (which happened to just win a national championship) and asked for any candidates who would be interested in joining our team. We hired a girl who was a pre-med major, and she is already drinking the 401(k) Koolaid. 

There are lots of capable and amazing people out there, you might just have to go find them and then mentor them. When we help others, we help ourselves—and the entire industry is lifted by it. 

Our Scope is Expanding

It used to be that everyone would say, “We go beyond the 3 F’s: Funds, Fees and Fiduciary,” and when they said that, they meant we also talk about helping with participant outcomes and financial wellness. Boy, oh boy, is it expanding even further today! Student loan payoff programs and HSA discussions are filling up the time at committee meetings for many of us. 

Read more commentary by Jania Stout here.

Our roles are also expanding into deeper knowledge around compliance. Plan advisors are becoming better technicians on the compliance side of this industry, and it is becoming the norm to have team members get their QKA designation to become better equipped to help their clients. 

We Can Make a Difference

The SECURE Act was finally enacted in December, and a big part of that success was the hard work that all of our advisors and our NAPA Government Affairs members put in. I got to see firsthand how it all works and am grateful for the behind-the-scenes look into it. 

Don’t think for a second that what we do falls on deaf ears. The lawmakers really do listen to ARA and NAPA when crafting legislation. It is refreshing to see that we can really bring about change, and NAPA could not do that without your involvement and your voices. 

It has been a privilege to serve all of you as NAPA President. I always tell my friends and family that our industry is the “better side of Wall Street.” Not that the other side is so bad, but because of what we do and the lives we are changing because of it, I think we deserve that description.

What you do every day and the countless hours you spend helping working Americans do not go unnoticed by the world. Let’s keep pushing upward and help working America truly be happy!

Jania Stout is the co-founder and managing director of Fiduciary Plan Advisors at HighTower in Owings Mills, MD. She serves as NAPA’s 2019-2020 President. This column appears in the Spring issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.