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FPA to replace long-serving CEO

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The FPA is replacing its CEO of eight years.

The association, which has begun the hunt for a new leader, has experienced declining membership and criticism of some initiatives.

Lauren Schadle had worked at the association since the 2000 merger of the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and the International Association for Financial Planning that created the FPA. She became CEO in 2012.

“She led and implemented many significant and beneficial initiatives during her tenure that have elevated FPA and the profession,” Martin Seay, the FPA’s 2020 president, said in a statement thanking Schadle for her service.

A reason was not given for the change in leadership. Seay declined to provide specifics with regard to Schadle’s departure.

The association currently has about 21,000 members, down from about 28,000 in the mid-2000s. The FPA has faced several controversies during Schadle’s tenure, such as cutting ties with the New York chapter amid misconduct allegations. She also oversaw the rollout of the OneFPA initiative, which has received mixed reviews from members.

FPA’s national leadership has also been criticized by some prominent voices in the financial planning industry, including XY Planning Network co-founder and Financial Planning contributor Michael Kitces. Despite believing Schadle has a genuine desire to see the FPA succeed after working with her for more than 15 years, Kitces called her departure “long overdue” on Twitter. He blamed FPA leadership for declining membership numbers and revenue.

“And even worse, the misguided focus from FPA's executive leadership on the OneFPA Network sucked all the oxygen out of the board room to talk about real impact opportunities, distracting focus from important chapter initiatives & dropping the ball on a Reg BI challenge,” Kitces says on Twitter. “The question now will become: What's next for the FPA, and can it recover from the lax fiduciary oversight of its own board of directors that allowed the same CEO to preside over eight years of negative growth and a potentially-catastrophic failed rollout of a crucial reorg?”

Vincent Barbera, managing partner of Newbridge Wealth Management and former president of the FPA’s Philadelphia tri-state chapter, says his growing frustration with the FPA eventually led him to end his membership in 2018.

“The attendance at the chapter meetings were increasingly becoming non-CFPs,” Barbera says. “I expressed my concern to [Schadle] in having non-practitioners as chapter presidents, but I was met with a blank stare.”

In an email, Seay acknowledges declining membership but says no one issue led to Schadle’s departure.

“While we would love to see our membership grow, growth has never been a primary focus for FPA,” Seay says. “Membership decline happens for any number of reasons. But we are not looking to the past — only forward.”

Seay also disagrees with Kitces about the FPA board being distracted and says the entire association is committed to the OneFPA project. He notes that the association has also been supportive of XYPN’s lawsuit against the SEC to overturn Regulation Best Interest.

“Concerning Reg BI, there were several different paths FPA could have taken, but our decision to not sue and instead file an amicus brief, which was accepted by the court, in support of the existing suits was what we determined as the most prudent course of action for the association,” Seay says.

Lauren Schadle is leaving the FPA, where she has been CEO since 2012.

In a 2019 column for Financial Planning, Schadle addressed some of the FPA’s issues with declining membership, particularly around attracting younger financial planners. Stiffer competition, changing behaviors of professionals and increased diversity are challenging all voluntary professional membership associations, Schadle wrote.

“For those who say, ‘FPA is fine and doesn’t need to change,’ I say, ‘FPA is fine and needs to institutionalize how it leverages its passionate leaders and programs to be even better in the future,” Schadle wrote.

Patrick Mahoney, a nonprofit executive and consultant, will step in immediately as interim CEO as the FPA searches for its next leader, according to a statement released by the association. Mahoney is a past chief marketing officer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and former president and CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec.

FPA has tapped Vetted Solutions, a Washington D.C.-based executive search firm, to support the search, and will involve national and local leaders.

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