Earlier this year I went to an event in our nation’s capital called “Awesome Con.”
As event names go, it’s a bit corny, but if it evokes a reference to Comic-Con, well that’s the point. Awesome Con is a mixture of cosplay (dressing up like your favorite comic book, gaming, or anime characters), celebrity meet-and-greets, and forums where like-minded individuals can not only learn, but debate plot lines, scientific trends that affirm (or refute) science fiction, and sit in on panels by some of the industry’s leading minds (and artists). No, I didn’t dress up – but I very much enjoyed getting to meet (and get autographs from) Marvel Comic’s Stan the Man Lee (see photo), Doctor #10 (David Tennant), and Eliza Dushku (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame), among others).
To be honest, I didn’t attend my first – the first – 401(k) Summit with that kind of anticipation. I had accepted an invitation to speak at an event – not that unusual – but at what was then a pretty unusual event – a conference for advisors who worked with retirement plans. What was even more unusual is that it was sponsored by ASPPA, a group I hadn’t previously associated with advisors. But what a remarkable event it turned out to be, both in terms of content, and the opportunity to meet and network with individuals like Fred Reish (our industry’s own Stan Lee?), and so many great advisors, many of whom would go on to be part of the group that would, a decade later, form the National Association of Plan Advisors.
A lot has happened since that first 401(k) Summit, most significantly the formation of NAPA itself. And a lot has happened to the NAPA 401(k) Summit since then – so much so that we now refer to it proudly, and with justification, as the nation’s retirement plan advisor convention. In an era where many advisors have chosen to cut back on such things, the NAPA 401(k) Summit continues to grow and expand.
This growth is both a function of the quality of the content and presenters – not to mention that of the attendees. Everybody is at the top of their game at the NAPA 401(k) Summit, and it shows. From those relatively humble, but promising beginnings, it has emerged as the must-attend event for advisors who are committed to the business of retirement plans.
As we reminded attendees last year, as important and impact-filled (and fun) as the NAPA 401(k) Summit is, it is much more than “just” a conference. This year more than most we’ve had the opportunity to see the impact that NAPA has on critical issues like the fiduciary regulation – creating and pushing for innovative solutions like the level-to-level fee exemption – and tax reform – pushing back against Rothification as a means of paying for corporate tax cuts, and outlining a set of retirement policy principles for tax reform ahead of the first reform proposals. And yes, in state capitals like Nevada, which is contemplating its own fiduciary standard, or in Oregon, Connecticut, and California, where state-run alternatives for private sector workers could be problematic.
But here’s the thing that many don’t appreciate. The NAPA 401(k) Summit is responsible for a significant amount of funding for our advocacy efforts on behalf of retirement plan advisors. That’s right – your registration fee doesn’t go to some private equity firm’s bottom line, nor does it simply act to keep a conference company in the business of organizing conferences – it supports advocacy efforts on your behalf, on Capitol Hill, with regulatory agencies, and – these days – in state capitals as well.
I know that April (still) seems a long ways off – but this year more than most the NAPA 401(k) Summit is that advisor experience you won’t want to miss. Even if you have been attending for years, you’ll get more from it than you can imagine – and your support will mean more to the benefit of the nation’s retirement system and retirement security than you may expect.
Join us. Your voice, more than ever, is needed. It’s going to be… Awesome.
Nevin E. Adams, JD