The FPA Annual Convention every fall is arguably the biggest event in financial planning each year. Typically drawing upwards of 3,000 attendees, it is certainly by numbers one of the largest conferences by far; although some of the custodial conferences (e.g., Schwab Impact) are competitive, FPA's is focused more directly on financial planning. This year, though, the FPA has rebranded the conference as FPA Experience, and conference chair Evelyn Zohlen is trying to take the event to a whole new level, with a huge focus on building community, and an effort to make it "the most interesting conference in the world" starting with a phenomenal promotional video!

As the video shows, FPA is trying to take the annual convention conference to a new level, and I have to give big kudos to chair Evelyn Zohlen for a really fun, awesome, entertaining video to highlight the changes. 

The conference will have the usual array of educational sessions - take a look at the full schedule - and although I don't have the numbers from last year, I believe the registration price has dropped significantly, with an early bird registration fee through August 5th of only $699 for FPA members.

But perhaps the most intriguing change for the conference is its new focus on community. FPA itself has been increasingly viewing itself as a community of communities - with its conference as a central gathering place for these communities to intersect and meet. But this year, it's reflected not only in a "Communities Room" where groups like NexGen or MPACT can meet and gather together, but also in the educational agenda itself, which is shaped around these communities, including:

- Longevity & Retirement Planning

- Niche (as in, planners who serve niche areas)

- Advisors in Transition (i.e., planners who are focused on succession planning issues)

- Portfolio Managers

- Small Business Planning

- Practice Optimization (planners focused on practice management issues)

- Life Planning

- Young Professionals

So rather than seeing a tax track, an estate planning track, an insurance track, etc., you're going to see a portfolio managers track, a niche planners track, a life planners track, etc. Content organized around and for the communities itself. Which in theory, not only makes the content itself more relevant, but also means that you'll be sitting in sessions throughout the conference WITH those same people, who are all in the same community as you and who (theoretically, at least) you'll share more in common with and have an opportunity to really build a connection.

I'll admit that personally, I'm struggling a little with a few of the communities listed above. For instance, I'm not sure that planners who serve a "niche" share that much in common to community towards, as they may have completely different businesses, practice styles, compensation models, target clientele, etc. On the other hand, I can certainly see a community for life planners, for planners that are especially investment centric (although I don't know that I'd necessarily call them "portfolio managers"), and as the NexGen community evolution has already shown, young professions is certainly a fit.

But honestly, I'm still far more upbeat than negative about these details; I think Evelyn is taking the conference in the right direction, and give the FPA a lot of credit for trying a relatively big "experiment" here with its banner conference of the year. I'm sure there will be much learned in the process, and opportunity to build further on this theme and direction next year.

So what do you think? Do you like the video? Does it make you more interested in attending FPA Experience 2011? How about the new communities-oriented direction of the conference itself? Does that not really matter to you, or does that make it genuinely sound more interesting? If you could re-draw the community lines, what community groups do you think should be on the list? 

  • Roger Wohlner

    How does this conference typically compare with NAPFA National? I did not attend this year’s event in SLC, but I have been very disappointed with the quality and depth of the sessions at the two most recent national conferences I attended (’08 and ’10). I’ve always heard good things about the FPA confernence. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Dave Moran

    Now that was really cool! They should do a series of follow-up ad’s continuing the same theme as the t.v. commercials – that’ll demonstrate the “freshness” and “relevance” the organizers are using to create the event. Great work FPA!

Michael E. Kitces

I write about financial planning strategies and practice management ideas, and have created several businesses to help people implement them.

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Out and About

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

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