Pamela Sandy on Building the FPA Brand and Creating Planners of Excellence
Journal of Financial Planning: December 2015
Who: Pamela Sandy, CFP®, ADPA®
What: Founder and CEO of boutique advisory firm CONFIANCE LLC, and 2016 FPA President
What’s on her mind: Money issues are full of emotion—and I think the best financial planners recognize that.
Video: Watch our video interview with Pamela Sandy...
When you ask Pamela Sandy to describe what FPA is, the answer comes quite easily and with complete clarity: “FPA creates and supports planners of excellence.”
As the 2016 FPA president, Sandy’s top priority is building the FPA brand and raising awareness of FPA’s value to the profession. And she knows a thing or two about that value. As a member of FPA and one of its predecessor organizations since 1994, she credits FPA as “the wind at my back pushing me forward.”
As founder and CEO of boutique advisory firm CONFIANCE LLC, which has offices in Cleveland and Boston, Sandy serves clients all over the country and has a special interest in planning for non-married couples.
“I focus on planning for non-traditional situations that people may simply decide to enter into,” she says. “Life is complicated, and life choices should fit your personal situation.”
The Journal recently sat down with Sandy to learn more about the impact she hopes to have in her tenure as 2016 FPA president, the role FPA plays in the lives of its members, and what she sees as the biggest challenge—and opportunity—for planners in 2016.
1. During your term as the 2016 FPA president, what impact do you hope to have on FPA and the planning profession as a whole?
My role as president is truly that of a servant leader, in that I will lend my skills, position, and experience in any way that will raise the recognition of the relevance of FPA to the profession of financial planning.
It is important that we respect our history, while seeing the future ahead. FPA is very inclusive—the diversity of our board represents that inclusivity. Initiatives in diversity, women in the profession, and our support of the next generation of planners all speak to FPA’s vision of our changing world. FPA brings our history and the vision of the future together under one roof. As FPA president, and as a woman in the profession, I intend to serve in any way possible to support FPA’s efforts in shaping the future of our profession.
2. What do you view as the top priorities for FPA in the upcoming year?
Top priority: building the FPA brand. That in itself will provide value to current members and drive membership growth. People like to be associated with a strong organization with an important voice in the profession.
Our growing collaboration with media and research partners, and our strengthening advocacy activities are raising awareness of FPA’s value and that is essential in building the brand.
Additionally, consumer recognition of FPA as the home of “planners of excellence” will connect the public with financial planning professionals that place the best interests of the client ahead of their own. Growing the FPA brand not only serves our members and the profession, but will increase consumer access to professional financial planners.
3.What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the planning profession in 2016, and how is FPA positioned to help?
Consumer education of what “fiduciary” really means. FPA’s voice as a member of the Financial Planning Coalition and our FPA advocacy efforts are critical to this issue and others that elevate the profession and protect consumers. Consumers are simply confused or misinformed on differences in the people they may choose to engage for financial planning services. FPA supports the fiduciary standard. Educating the public on what that means to them is a big challenge for the profession, but it will be a game-changer for the public. A truly educated public will seek out professionals who support the fiduciary standard, and members of FPA will benefit.
4.You have been serving on the FPA board of directors since 2012. What have you personally gained from your volunteer commitment to the profession?
My tenure on the FPA board of directors has been one of the most rewarding of my career—both personally and professionally. I have been a member of FPA (and a predecessor organization) since 1994. That membership and the relationships and professional knowledge gained through FPA over those years have made me the planner I am today. I would not be the professional I am today without FPA as the wind at my back pushing me forward.
With that said, my service on the board has enhanced that experience tenfold. To be surrounded by some of the smartest and most passionate people within our profession has truly been humbling. I have learned so much about what it takes to have a larger vision and to be at the forefront of truly establishing a young profession—as the planning profession is—and to make some small contribution toward that goal.
5.You have been providing financial services and advice to people for nearly 25 years. What inspired you to enter this profession?
To be entirely truthful, as a woman, I entered the profession because I liked the idea that I would be rewarded based upon the effort I put forth—not what someone else would be willing to pay me. From there it didn’t take long for me to feel the responsibility of my work to people’s financial lives and the bigger reward in my work was seeing how I could truly make a difference. The client relationships have been extraordinary, and many have been a gift in my life.
My life experience brings a perspective to the table that most people can relate to, and as a woman in financial planning, I approach things possibly from a more emotional place. Money issues are full of emotion—and I think the best financial planners recognize that. People don’t always do the smart thing; they most often do the emotional thing, particularly when family or loved ones are involved.
6.What do you feel are the most important things FPA can do to help support those who are just entering the profession?
Those entering the profession, whether career-changers or young, educated, and energetic next-generation of planners, can elevate their skills and find support for their businesses by being members of FPA. Long-time members are truly passionate about financial planning and many are great mentors to those new to the profession.
Additionally, as we deliver value on our four business lines—professional development, business success, advocacy, and community—new planners of any age will find resources to help them move beyond the technical skills gained from achieving the CFP® marks, and they’ll gain real-life knowledge to support their success by becoming part of the FPA community and rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the profession.
7.In your opinion, what role do you feel FPA plays in the lives of its members?
Quite simply, FPA creates and supports planners of excellence. I have always been impressed by the caliber of my professional colleagues who are not only members of FPA, but have been integral in elevating the profession.
FPA members are the most passionate in our profession, and are looked to as experts in their field. Members of FPA have served on panels as subject matter experts and have given testimony in front of Congress. These members’ practices and professional growth have been supported by their membership in FPA. That’s why I say, “We create planners of excellence.” If the consumer can look to FPA as a place to find those planners, we also serve the public and the profession.
8. You have a great quote on your firm’s website: “Your personal net worth is as—or more—important than your financial net worth.” How does this quote reflect the culture at your planning firm?
Your personal net worth is simply your ability to make a living or to continue to keep yourself marketable. No financial goals can be achieved without an income. Some clients have a substantial income, but that income is variable and inconsistent, such as an entertainer. Other clients may have both—substantial income and stability—like a doctor, for example. Still, others may have a stable, but modest income.
I believe this personal net worth is important when considering investment and financial planning recommendations. Like a portion of your overall portfolio, is your personal net worth aggressive (unstable), or conservative (stable)? Financial investments should include perspective around those variables. For me, the financial meltdown of 2008 magnified this, and I haven’t forgotten it in my planning.
9. In addition to being a CFP® professional, you also hold the Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA®) designation. How does that designation help you in your work with non-traditional couples?
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the right for all of our LGBT family and friends the right to marry. It was an exciting day, as the FPA board was convening its June meeting in Washington, D.C. at the time; it was historical and emotional for many of my friends.
With that said, I pursued the ADPA® studies to elevate my understanding of anyone who wishes to live within a non-traditional relationship. I myself have chosen to live with a significant other without desiring to tie the knot, and there are many like me. I focus on planning for non-traditional situations that people may simply decide to enter into. Life is complicated, and life choices should fit your personal situation. The ADPA® simply gave me a better understanding of issues pertaining to unmarried couples—same-sex or otherwise.
10. As a leader in the financial planning profession, what is your hope for the future of the profession?
FPA, its predecessor organizations, and past leaders saw the value of financial planning in the lives of everyday people. Their vision and work was based in creating a true profession that enriched the lives of people and the planners that made the difference in their lives. This work goes on.
We are a young profession, and some of the most passionate people in this profession are members of FPA. Those members and the current and future leaders of FPA will continue the push forward to elevate this profession. I feel privileged to be part of that history, truly privileged.