It’s one thing to learn about something. It’s another to experience it firsthand. This sentiment describes how Scott Spiker, Chairman of First Command Financial Services, began to appreciate the value of FSI.
First Command, which today has more than 600 advisors in about 180 offices across the country who serve mostly retired and active military personnel and their families, was an FSI member before he became CEO in 2007. He remembers his general counsel telling him about FSI’s mission when he came aboard.
Yet, it wasn’t until First Command had a challenge with a regulator that he understood just how effectively FSI represents the industry. He visited with team members to discuss the situation, including FSI President Dale Brown and Executive Vice President and General Counsel David Bellaire.
“I told them who we were dealing with and what was going on and asked what wisdom they could provide,” Spiker said. “Dale and Dave grasped the issues at hand immediately. They could not have been more helpful. At that point, I realized what an important role FSI plays.”
Fast forward to today, and Spiker is now Chair of the FSI Board. FSIVoice had the opportunity to speak with him recently.
FSIVoice: What’s the most significant benefit FSI provides your firm?
Spiker: While its advocacy efforts are hugely important, the overall value transcends that. The team has its finger on the pulse of everything going on in the states and at the SEC, FINRA and the Department of Labor. What that allows firms like ours to do is focus time, effort and resources on other things. Those ‘other things’ will vary from firm to firm, but the point is that FSI not only protects the industry’s interests, but it lets member firms run more efficient and focused businesses. For advisors, the Covered Advisor program has been a game-changer. Without it, they would struggle to get affordable healthcare coverage for themselves, their families and their staff.
FSIVoice: What would you tell an advisors was on the fence about joining FSI?
Spiker: In my role at First Command, I’ve often found myself as an advocate for FSI internally. Whenever these sorts of questions come up, it’s simple: I rattle off all the issues in which FSI’s advocacy has had a positive impact, whether it’s resisting the DOL’s fiduciary rule, fighting regulation by enforcement or protecting advisors’ independent contractor status. Yes, First Command is a member. But I tell them, ‘FSI represents you, too,’ and urge them to get on board. Everyone needs to understand that advocacy is a team sport, and we need as many advisors as possible to get involved because there is strength in numbers.
FSIVoice: What are the big issues that you believe will define your time as Board Chair?
Spiker: The independent contractor issue is the one that immediately stands out. It’s existential for our industry. We are not the target of its recent proposal, but we could get caught up in the collateral damage. Otherwise, three other matters come to mind. First, the industry is aging rapidly, and, frankly, we have not done a good job of adding next-gen talent to replace the advisors who will soon retire. Another is diversity, equity and inclusion. Our demographics have to mirror the communities we wish to serve. Currently, they don’t. Finally, more firms must focus on providing clients a better digital experience. Today’s younger investors – Gen Z and millennials – are digital natives, and the sad fact is that much of the industry is not ready to serve them.
FSIVoice: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned during your time on the Board?
Spiker: I keep returning to this, but FSI is more than just an advocacy organization. When I get the opportunity to get together with my peers, talk about challenges, and then come up with solutions, I can’t tell you how beneficial that experience is. We all have different businesses, but many of our problems are shared. Without FSI acting as a thought leadership forum, I’m not sure anyone of us would be able to solve them as easily as we’ve been able to.