With the glut of new regulations and legislation affecting the defined contribution and 401(k) market, it's amazing to realize that the advisers that are so critical to the success of the retirement system, especially for plans with less than $250 million, have not had a voice in Washington.

Recordkeepers, broker dealers, plan sponsors and money managers employ strong lobbyist groups and support various beltway associations, but the front-line advisers working with and representing the interests of employers and participants have not had a voice. In fact, it is questionable whether regulators and legislators even know that DC advisers even exist, never mind understand what they do.

However, with the recent launch of the National Association of Plan Advisors, a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, advisers now have a strong advocate.

It seems that the retirement market in general and the DC industry specifically has become a top focus for the Obama administration and Congress. Whether it is fee disclosure, fiduciary status, target-date funds, retirement income or, most recently, the deficit reduction at the expense of deferral rate, it's clear that the industry and the livelihood of DC advisers are at stake. While providers, plan sponsors and broker dealers have similar interests in protecting and improving a system that is working, advisers need their unique voice heard. They need to have someone to advocate on their behalf. Similarly, advisers need to have their own independent group focused on informing them about what is going on in Washington, what's important and what they need to do with clients and prospects.

ASPPA seems like a natural affiliation for a DC adviser association and advocacy group. It can provide the necessary infrastructure to run an association, and it is a lobbyist group with the right contacts and experience in the retirement industry. ASPPA also publishes a series of retirement-oriented online and print publications and conducts conferences and webinars.

Since the interests of ASPPA and NAPA members may not always be aligned, NAPA will be run by an independent Leadership Committee consisting of 12 members, nine of whom are advisers who are the only voting members. Individual advisers may join for $395, with a reduced rate for current ASPPA members. Providers, broker-dealers and other groups such as law firms may also join. For advisers whose firms are founding members of NAPA, annual dues will be $195, but dues will be waived in 2011 and 2012.

As the DC adviser profession continues to evolve, it only makes sense that an organization like NAPA was created to represent their interests. It gives dedicated DC advisers - and those interested in becoming one - a broad-based, open forum to network and discuss ways to grow their business and improve outcomes for clients.

We are at a pivotal point for our industry and our profession. Without some sort of leadership and advocacy, our chances of success will be limited. TRAU is a founding member of NAPA along with a growing number of other firms and we strongly urge other to give it similar consideration. More information can be found at www.ASPPA.org/NAPA.

Barstein is the founder and executive director of The Retirement Advisor University at the UCLA School of Management Executive Education. Reach him at fred.barstein@TRAUniv.com.

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