July 26, 2022 | RIA Resources
Advisors are independent-minded folks: we all have unique ways of bringing value to our clients. However, you don’t need to do it alone when starting an independent RIA. Joining a professional organization opens the door to a vast amount of collective knowledge, filled with people who likely have been in the same position as you. This is a massive step in your career, and there are many opportunities to make mistakes.
There are several professional associations for advisors, some of which focus on specific offerings. While membership in these organizations is optional, advisors will find the benefits attractive. In addition to the networking opportunities, membership can improve your reputation, become a source of new client leads, and help your independent RIA grow through continuing education opportunities.
While we’ll cover the national organizations here, regional and specialized groups exist, which may prove an even more valuable networking resource. We suggest you take some time to look and see if any such organizations exist locally. Many national organizations also have local “chapters,” which aim to promote regional networking between advisors.
There’s no correct answer here. However, given that each organization has dues you’ll need to pay yearly, the first ones you join should be relevant to the financing advising services you offer or plan to in the near future.
Annual dues vary but are generally around $400-500 per organization. These are only national dues: local chapters have their own yearly dues, which you’re also expected to pay. Those dues will vary.
Most of our recommendations do not require a certification to become a member. However, the Society of Financial Services Professionals requires a professional certification for membership. Others require you or your firm to have interests or business that aligns with the organization’s focus, but not necessarily a certification. We’ve highlighted those requirements where they exist.
Each professional organization we recommend has different costs, membership sizes, and history. The best association for you will depend on your goals. While you won’t find every organization relevant, many advisors are members of multiple organizations.
We’ve also included a few more at the end, which depending on your interests or networking goals, might be a good idea to check out. We’ll start with the largest organizations first.
Dues: Sliding scale based on years licensed, $120-$780 annually
Regional Chapters: Yes
2022 Conference Location: Washington, D.C., November 13-15, 2022
Who should join: NAIFA is as large as it is because it represents financial advisors regardless of the products they sell or services they offer. It is also the oldest advisor organization in the United States, starting in 1890 as the National Association of Life Underwriters.
As its name suggests, NAIFA focuses on the role of insurance in financial planning. As a D.C.-based organization, it’s also heavily involved in legislative efforts that affect the industry, aiming to represent the voices of its varied membership. While dues are expensive compared to other organizations, its large size offers many networking opportunities, and its events are well-attended.
Dues: $375 annually, plus chapter dues
Regional Chapters: Yes
2022 Conference Location and Date: Seattle, December 12-14, 2022
Who should join: Although the core membership is certified financial planners (CFPs), the FPA welcomes any financial planner who acts as a fiduciary. In addition, over 80 chapters and councils exist, the largest of which are several thousand members strong.
Membership includes a wide variety of live and on-demand learning options and resources to connect potential clients to planners and planners to journalists, both helpful in building your brand and clientele.
Dues: $495 annually
Regional Chapters: Yes
2022 Conference Location: Philadelphia, October 23-26, 2022
Who should join: If you’re interested in corporate financial planning, joining the AFP is a good idea. The organization issues the certified treasury professional and corporate financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professional credentials, which require the candidate to meet specific requirements and pass a two-part examination.
The AFP offers online and in-person events, including an annual conference, live and on-demand training, access to research, and career guidance.
Dues: $440 annually (First year 25% discount)
Regional Chapters: Yes
2022 Conference Location: None
Who should join: Founded in 1928 by the first graduating class of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, this is the only organization where a credential is required for membership. The FSP is “the only place where you will find a multidisciplinary community of accomplished professionals, including CPAs, attorneys, insurance experts, and financial advisors from all disciplines,” according to its website.
In addition to the credential, members must abide by the organization’s code of conduct, including its diversity and ethics initiatives.
Dues: $695 annually, $150 one-time processing fee
Regional Chapters: No, but it has regional online “communities”
2022 Conference Location: Denver, October 20-22, 2022
Who should join: While many of the above associations for advisors are open to a wide variety of professionals, and even the FSP’s “credentialed only” membership is still 10,000+ strong – NAPFA is solely for financial planners that are fee-based and commission-free. No professional credentials are required.
Its members are independent advisors to large firms managing billions in assets. However, all members must sign a strict fiduciary oath each year and fully disclose all conflicts of interest to their clients.
Membership: 600 members
Dues: Based on AUM
2022 Conference Location: Washington, D.C., September 28-30, 2022
Who should join: Those working as fiduciary advisors might be interested in joining the IAA. The IAA opens associate memberships to custodians, fintech, law firms, consultants, and others aligned with the interests of investment advisers. Your firm joins the organization rather than individually, with dues based on AUM.
The IAA highlights the access its members have to network with other high-performing firms (managing $35+ trillion in assets) and other professionals focused on serving investment advisors as a key benefit of membership. Member firms also can work with others to solve industry challenges and shape legislative efforts affecting investment advisors through working groups and lobbying efforts.
The professional associations for advisors above are only a few of the dozens of organizations that might be useful in helping you grow your independent RIA. Others, like the Association of African-American Financial Advisors, the Asian American Insurance and Financial Professional Association, the Asian Financial Society, and the Association of Latino Professionals of America, offer networking opportunities for advisors belonging to those communities.
We’ve also found a few other organizations that you might find helpful in furthering your professional career, depending on your interests or your firm’s focus.
While membership in these professional organizations is entirely optional, the critical first few months and years in the growth of your firm will be much easier with a network of like-minded professionals at your disposal.
We recommend joining a national organization with local chapters such as NAIFA, FPA, or AFP to start. Some of these local chapters in the larger organizations are pretty active: for example, FPA San Francisco and several other chapters organize FPA NorCal, which regularly has programming and speakers that rival the quality you’d find at a national conference.
There are also plenty of less formal events, roundtables, presentations, and continuing education where you’ll get the chance to build relationships with other local advisors. This will make your independent RIA journey much smoother and hopefully more profitable.
The Shoestring RIA is a series of articles written and published by the BillFinTM team at Redi2 Technologies designed to help RIAs as they start out on their own. We recognize just how challenging it is to venture out and build a successful business. Our articles will be focused on helping these new businesses with a wide range of topics.