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Graff: Industry Must Prepare for Changing Political Climate

The political climate has changed and this necessitates some new approaches, American Retirement Association (ARA) CEO Brian Graff indicated in remarks at a Jan. 28 session at the 2019 30th Anniversary NTSA Summit in Tampa, FL.

Graff attributed the results of the November 2018 elections not only to the rather typical swing of the pendulum that often takes place during elections occurring during the middle of a presidential term, but also to the increased voting eligibility and participation of Millennials. He characterized it as a generational shift — probably the most significant since the 1960s — and one that is in a progressive direction.

This progressive shift in politics brings to the fore, and to leadership positions on Capitol Hill, people who “are not big fans of the financial services industry,” said Graff, so “we have to be prepared” for what the shift means. “We’ve got to have an answer for our critics,” said Graff. “We do make a difference.”

One way to have an impact: telling personal success stories. “Here’s the good news,” Graff said: “We really do have a great story to tell — we help people save. We have to tell stories about the difference we make in people’s lives.

“We have to change the narrative. We’ve got to stop being defensive about what we do,” Graff declared. “We’ve got to go on offense. We’ve got to make people understand what you do. I can’t emphasize enough how important I think this is,” Graff said. “Americans can’t save without us.”

Coming Focus on State Activity

Graff also addressed heightened legislative and regulatory activity at the state level. In the wake of the DOL fiduciary rule’s demise, he noted, we are seeing more activity in the financial fiduciary area at the state level. He observed that Nevada just became the first state to institute a fiduciary standard, remarking, “this is the start of what will be a new trend.”

Additionally, more states are adopting measures that created programs to provide retirement accounts for private-sector employees whose employers do not provide a plan. Increasing state activity, he said, “is the next big thing that we’re going to have to deal with as an industry.”