So, this is my last quarterly commentary as President of NAPA!
As I was trying to figure out what I was going to write this quarter, I had to reflect on this year as President. I have to say before I joined the Leadership Council (LC) in 2016, I had no idea what they did. Who were these mystery people that always sat in the front at Summit and seemed to have a pulse on everything NAPA?
You may not realize all the work the leadership council does, so I would like to take this opportunity to not only thank and acknowledge all the hard work of the group, but to tell you what all we did and worked on over the last year. Plus, we are also always looking for bright, outgoing people who don’t mind spending their own valuable time for a good cause, so if you are ever interested in being part of the PC, please let a current member know! It is a labor of love.
Who Makes up the Leadership Council?
The NAPA leadership council is made up of 16 members: 12 advisors and 4 firm partners. Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association, also serves as an ex-officio member. Members serve a 3-year term, unless they become President—then they get to serve an extra year!
LC candidates are nominated by other LC members. We are always looking for people who are already leaders in the industry, respected, good role models, and do not mind speaking their mind! No wall flowers in our group! We also try to have a diverse group—not just men and women of different nationalities, but also diversity of firms represented.
The council meets eight times a year, including two one-to-two-day sessions in the spring and fall and other one-off conference calls as things come up. Nine of the committee members serve as liaisons to the different subcommittees such as the Summit Planning Committee, Government Affairs Committee, Women in Retirement Council, Non-Qualified Deferred Comp conference committee and the Nominating Committee. In between meetings, we have other calls relating to projects we all take on. There always seems to be something going on.
What Kept us Busy?
This last year seemed to be more active than other years. The decision-making process and all the required actions needed to turn live conferences to virtual were more work than an act of Congress (we know how that works!). Brian Graff and the entire Summit and Fly-In Forum Committees and staff worked tirelessly to negotiate with the hotels, try to waive cancellation fees, and then try to learn about virtual platforms to make our conferences successful. If you have ever had to cancel a big event, you know it is not easy, and the hotels certainly do not like it—thank goodness for insurance policies… seriously! For the first time we even had to create an event code of conduct for virtual events just in case anyone got out of hand on the chat rooms. I am glad you all behaved yourselves!
With the help of many of our firm partners, we also took on some initiatives, such as an ESG certification program, that we hope will be coming by the summer of 2021. ESG is certainly a topic we all need to learn more about, and with all of the resources NAPA brings together, it makes sense that we play a role in training advisors on the topic of ESG investing in retirement plans.
As you read in my fall 2020 column, diversity is now a major initiative. We started a diversity committee in 2020 and discussed ideas and solutions to not only help diversify our membership but also reach out to minority business owners and encourage them to start retirement plans for their employees. Thank you all who participated in the census survey so that we could start gathering data on our members.
There is also now a Women in Retirement Council that includes representatives of NAPA and the other American Retirement Association sister organizations. The Council has oversight over the Women in Retirement Conference, the THRIVE Women’s mentoring program, and other women’s initiatives by the ARA. And in the works is a database of CPFAs on the ARA site available to anyone looking for a plan advisor.
Every year we also have to look at the financial side of the organization and approve the NAPA annual budget—and yes, we do have to budget!
Remember, NAPA is an association for advisors run by advisors. The toughest thing we all have to deal with is not just managing our clients, but managing the business of business! And we thought gaining and retaining clients was tough enough! We realize it’s expensive to run a practice, so in order to better help our members and save you money, we now offer an Errors & Omissions group policy with help from our partners at Lockton, available at a more competitive association cost.
In addition, we have been exploring association health care options. For those who are independent advisors, the cost of health care coverage for you and your employees and E&O coverage can be daunting. We will continue to do what we can as an association to help our members run more effective and efficient businesses.
Read more commentary by Pat Wenzel here.
Finally, there is the legislative and regulatory side. Remember that we are an advocacy group. We can never underestimate the power of legislation. There’s so much that NAPA and the ARA have been involved with this last year: SECURE Act, CARES Act, DOL electronic delivery regulations, the latest fiscal stimulus bill that provides relief and guidance for vesting in the event of partial plan terminations in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.
There’s a lot of work being done by our Government Affairs Council, and with a new administration, we may see bipartisan support on many issues that are important to us. Many items still need further regulatory guidance or legislative action. These include efforts like the student loan matching program, streamlining the long-term part-time employee compliance rules, and expanded automatic enrollment safe harbors, that help small employers and encourage workers to save more; new tax credits for small employers to encourage workplace retirement savings; permanent retirement plan distribution and loan rules for victims of natural disasters; and my favorite: overturning the outdated family attribution rules!
Lastly, we are advocating for policies that will make it easier for employers to administer their plans, establish new retirement plans, and improve retirement savings and security for all Americans. And NAPA will continue to defend against proposals that could be harmful to the 401(k) system. This year’s D.C. Fly-In Forum will certainly be packed with good ideas and the latest on important initiatives on the Hill!
We have an important task at NAPA, as our careers are dependent on tax and retirement legislation. As crazy as this country may seem sometimes, there is no other country I would rather live in and no other career I would rather be in. I am proud of the work that we all do as advisors; we do make a difference in people’s financial lives, which leads to better personal lives.
I’m proud of the work we are doing at NAPA and I am most proud to have served as your President. I want to give a special thanks to all the fantastic members of the LC. We have some great leaders to come:
Alex Assaley, President-Elect
Corby Dall, Vice President
Jania Stout- Past President
Barbara Delaney (term ends April 2021)
Charlie Snyder (term ends April 2021)
Jon Anderson (term ends April 2021)
Thank you all once again for your tireless efforts and for putting up with me this past year!
Pat Wenzel, CRPC®, C(k)P® , CFP ® , CPFA, is a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch in Houston, TX. Her term as NAPA’s 2020-2021 President ended on April 9. This column appears in the spring issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.