Grassroots Champions: 2023 Advocacy Circle of Excellence

October 16, 2023

Advocacy has always been the backbone of FSI. It always will be. 

For nearly two decades, our team has worked tirelessly to establish relationships with lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal levels. This has allowed us to be part of the debate whenever they consider bills or proposals impacting our members and the Main Street clients they serve. And for nearly two decades, we have delivered meaningful results. 

But none of it would have been possible without our members participating in the process. To recognize those who have most embraced our mission, we launched our annual advocacy awards program in 2020, which includes the Circle of Excellence and the Stephen R. Kareta Excellence in Advocacy Award. Kareta was a model FSI member and a powerful advocate for the independent financial services industry.

The recipients of the award honoring him set a high bar, dedicated to building constructive relationships with their state and local officials, as well as members of Congress and regulators. They also engage other members on critical issues of importance to FSI and the industry and establish a visible and positive presence in their communities. This year’s winners are Carla Hauser, Elizabeth Kietzman and Mary Kusske.

Hauser, a Senior Wealth Advisor at Signature Wealth Strategies in North Carolina, has provided financial advice for over 30 years. This year, she met with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who has since retired, and attended two legislative roundtables, where she spoke powerfully about what independence means to her and her clients and encouraged lawmakers to oppose the DOL’s independent contractor rule.

Hauser’s story moved Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) so much that the congresswoman, who is the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, promised to stop by Hauser’s office next time she was in town. Rep. Foxx’s committee has jurisdiction over the DOL.

Kietzman, a Financial Advisor at Artisan Financial Group in Minnesota, is a previous Circle of Excellence Winner. She is a regular attendee at FSI webinars and participates in our call-to-action programs.

After taking part in roundtables with Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn) in the past, Kietzman powerfully articulated the importance of her independence while meeting with Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn) office this year. Kietzman and others’ personal tales are a classic example of how members can impact our advocacy agenda while meeting with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Kusske is President of Kusske Financial Asset Management Inc., a Minnesota family-owned firm. The first two-time winner of the Stephen R. Kareta Excellence in Advocacy Award, Mary has set a shining advocacy example.

For years, she has routinely met with legislators and regulators, like FINRA, to discuss important industry issues, including financial literacy and succession planning. This year, she took part in the meeting with Sen. Klobuchar’s office alongside Beth, giving an opening statement on behalf of our members focused on the importance of her independence.

“I’m honored to be recognized by FSI for my advocacy efforts,” Kusske said. “I believe that to be part of the solution, you need to voice your opinion to help educate our government about the important work financial advisors do on behalf of their clients.”

In addition to Hauser, Kietzman and Kusske, the other members of the 2023 FSI Advocacy Circle of Excellence are:

  • Richard Bryant, CEO, Capital Investment Brokerage, Inc. 
  • Russell Clarke, Financial Advisor, First Command Financial Services 
  • Fred Dawson, President, Dawson Wealth Management LLC 
  • Elizabeth Donner, President, Diversified Planning, LTD 
  • Jeremy Ehst, Financial Advisor, Life Financial Group 
  • Estee Faranda, CEO, Primerica Advisors PFS Investments 
  • Alex Hudak, Branch Manager DDL, Raymond James Financial Services 
  • Ruth Matt, Founder and CEO, Fore River Financial 
  • Tony Nerantzis, Managing Principal/ Financial Advisor, Raymond James Financial Services 
  • Jim Robinson, Wealth Management Advisor, Schulfer and Associates Wealth Management LLC 
  • Julie Sullivan, Senior VP and Group Chief Compliance Officer, The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. 

FSI President & CEO Dale Brown said, “The dedication of our members is crucial to ensuring Main Street Americans have access to affordable, professional financial advice, services and products. We are proud to recognize these individuals who have committed themselves to FSI’s mission through responding to calls to action, hosting congressional events for FSI members and outstanding participation in advocacy activities. Together, we can help create a more business-friendly, regulatory environment.” 

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