When I sat down to write this, my first column as NAPA President, I quickly realized that I will never be able to write a President’s message like our Past President, Jeff Acheson. Jeff is a master of wordsmithing and, as those who attended this year’s 401(k) Summit know, he is famous for his “Jeffisms.” I will do my best, though, and might even phone my friend for some help from time to time!
Speaking of Summit, how amazing was this year’s conference?! I continue to be impressed by the content and the expertise of the speakers. We had record-breaking attendance, with more than 1,100 advisors, and the venue was fantastic! I brought a few of my team members to Summit this year and they were amazed at the amount of comradery that goes on.
Next year is going to be great too, as we head to Orlando – and get a chance to take over Universal Studios for an evening. It will be a conference you won’t want to miss!
As the title of this column suggests, it is time to start sharing our story.
I am a huge fan of putting a spotlight on people and events when they demonstrate how our industry changes lives in a positive way. I do not believe we do enough of this, and I want to be the catalyst to help this happen. People believe what they see in the press and on social media. So let’s show them the amazing work we do every day to help change lives.
I am hoping we will see a more formal initiative about this in the upcoming year. If you have a great story to share, please share and tag me on it too! I will help get the news out there. I have heard so many stories of how a plan advisor worked tirelessly to help a client with either plan design or education for employees, and how their efforts led to someone being in a better financial situation. These are the stories we need the public to hear. We should work together as an industry to continue to help others understand what we do.
Since this is my first President’s message, I would like to share with you some of my goals and initiatives for my term. Many of these have been put into motion in the past, but we will work to intensify our focus in certain areas. It will probably not come as a surprise to those who know me that the following three topics are high on my list.
Greater Inclusion and Diversity
As we grow in membership, I feel it is important that we focus on having the representation of as many types of plan advisors as possible. Whether you work for a large broker-dealer or RIA or a small one- to five-person firm, we want to hear your voice. We also want to continue to support minorities in our industry. NAPA can only be strong if we have everyone’s involvement and voice. I have seen dozens of advisors reach out to me asking to get involved, and my goal is to help create more opportunity for them to do so. To borrow a “Jeffism,” we are greater in whole than in part.
After Jeff passed the gavel to me at Summit, I asked the women in the room to stand up. I literally nearly cried happy tears! It was truly inspiring to see what looked like at least 30% of the room stand up. This is something our industry and association should be proud of.
I am proud to be the second female President, and our new President Elect, Pat Wenzel, is a woman as well. We have our own conference – the Women in Retirement Conference (WiRC), now in its fourth year.
At Summit I spoke about the “If not me, then who?” mission that I borrowed from the Travis Manion Foundation. Financial wellness and literacy is a topic most plan advisors are passionate about, and I feel it is time we take our passion and provide more programs and tools that members can tap into.
We have some of the greatest advisors in the industry who are already blazing the path in this area. So we created a task force to collaborate about what NAPA can do to lift the country up with better financial literacy programs. We feel we are the right industry to do this, and I am excited to give you updates on this effort in the future.
Lastly, I want to share with you how grateful I am to be a part of NAPA and to be your President. It will be the highlight of my career to know that thousands of advisors trust me in this leadership role. I step into it wholeheartedly.
NAPA is such a powerful association that can truly affect regulation and legislation. I have seen it first-hand, meeting with the Department of Labor and testifying before Congress. We truly can make a difference!
I hope that reading this makes you want to learn more about what you can do to help. If so, please reach out to me. I believe in collaboration and I am confident that together we can “raise the tide” to help working Americans have a dignified and rewarding retirement.
Jania Stout is the co-founder and managing director of Fiduciary Plan Advisors at HighTower in Owings Mills, MD. This column, her first as NAPA’s 2019-2020 President, was originally published in the Summer issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.