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Innovate, or Evaporate!

The S&P 500 was introduced in 1957 as a benchmark index designed to track the value of the 500 largest companies in the United States. Today, approximately 60, or just 12% of that original 500, are still included in the index. Bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions certainly have taken their toll on the 440 that are no longer included. But for many, their fate was driven by the fact that they simply lost relevance, credibility or positioning in the lives of the American people or on the world stage.

The lesson to be learned? Innovate or evaporate — the future is promised to no one!

With that lesson in mind, I have decided to start my term as NAPA President with a few observations and reflections that crossed my mind during and immediately following the recent, and I might add, spectacular NAPA 401(k) Summit in Nashville. The guiding question is: What must we do to maintain relevance, credibility and positioning, and are we doing it?

Part of the Solution

Brian Graff has often stated that as an association and as advisors we must be enthusiastically committed to being part of the solution and not part of the problem when it comes to helping all Americans achieve retirement security. We must be perceived in such a manner by the legislative and regulatory bodies that affect our ability to fulfill our mission. That enthusiastic commitment was never more evident than when gauging the off-the-charts energy level of the advisors at this year’s Summit.

A Seat at the Table

We must acknowledge the age-old axiom about the political waters we navigate: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, consider yourself on the menu.” I think back to our roots within ASPPA, where relationships and credibility have been forged for more than 50 years, and to our future under the American Retirement Association “umbrella.” The ARA unites all voices across the retirement plan service provider spectrum — now including the perspective of plan sponsors through our new sister association, the Plan Sponsor Council of America.

We now have the depth, credibility and history to justify a seat at the biggest and most influential of tables. Unfortunately, getting a good table at the best restaurants can be an expensive commitment. So it is critical that we do a better job of supporting the NAPA PAC — or we may find upon arrival the maître d' has not treated us well with our table placement. Please remember, a contribution to the PAC is an investment in your future!

Inclusion and Diversity

While many may not be aware of this, let me assure you that a continuing agenda item for NAPA Leadership Council meetings is dialogue and action items focused on fostering inclusion, diversity and “Next Gen” leadership development. As you might imagine, we were quite pleased to receive an email from a first-time conference attendee saying the Summit was one of the most diverse industry conferences he had ever attended, and observing that that couldn’t have been an accident. Let me assure you: a focus, yes; an accident, no!

Furthermore, one of our very valued Firm Partners that exhibited at the Summit commented to me that the event is now the most important conference on their schedule each year by a wide margin. Maintaining relevance is easier when you are considered the biggest and the best!

When surveying the value propositions and technology on display in the Exhibit Hall, one couldn’t help but notice how cutting-edge our industry has become. The tools and resources available to advisors, plan sponsors and participants is simply staggering. Innovation on display!

Finally, growth is rooted in knowledge. To that end, NAPA is committed to providing our members:

  • Access to agnostic, unbiased education and thought leadership

  • Exposure to best practices in business model execution

  • Introductions to industry service providers

As a mentor of mine once told me, “The odds of success are highest when one has both pride in the outfit and confidence in the leadership.” When it comes to NAPA, I have both — and I love our odds of staying very relevant in the important story that is just beginning to unfold.

Jeffery Acheson, CPFA, is NAPA’s 2018-2019 President. This column, published in the Summer issue of NAPA Net the Magazine, is his first as NAPA President. Jeff is the founder of Advanced Strategies Group, LLC, which delivers a fiduciary-based business model focusing on high-income individuals, high-net-worth families, successful companies, mid-size retirement plan sponsors and charitable organizations.