ACP 2018 Conference Recap by Elizabeth Buffardi


Every year, the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP) hosts a conference to give members a chance to come together to discuss, learn, and collaborate with each other about the most pressing financial planning topics.

ACP, a not-for-profit organization, is a community of fee-only, holistic financial planners. We believe in providing advice based on the true meaning of fiduciary service. Our clients always come first, and our advice is based on their needs. We believe it’s essential to stay informed about taxes and the potential tax effects of financial decisions. By operating on the retainer model, we are able to give our clients the best possible advice. After all, it’s only when you know everything about your clients that you can provide the clearest guidance. This connection also helps clients feel much more comfortable seeking your input when they have decisions to make.

Every year, the conference is one of the highlights of the year for our members. This is in big part because of our community. We believe in “paying it forward first.” Whenever I have a question, I know my fellow members will step up to help me find the answers, and I am always honored when someone comes to me for advice. Also, our members are topnotch. Some have had careers in other fields before joining ACP, and some came to ACP right out of school. But each member brings with them a unique perspective. In fact, many of our presenters at the conference are ACP members! With such a strong foundation, the conference is a great way to continue to build and strengthen the community even more! Throughout the year, we may speak to each other via phone, email, or the discussion forum. But at the conference we have the chance to build those underlying bonds and form new ones.

This year, taking on the role of conference chair was a bit intimidating. Many people have told me in the past that the ACP Conference is the one conference that they will not miss. They clear their schedules for the week in order to attend. Talk about pressure to pull off another great conference!

I was fortunate to have an exceptional committee to help me put the conference together. Every year we have presentations from thought leaders in the industry. This year, George Kinder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning talked to us about how to help our clients discover their life plan and how they can achieve it. We also heard from Marie Swift of Impact Communications. As a thought leader in marketing, she shared her expertise about getting our message to the people we are hoping to serve. Our third speaker was Robert Jolles of Jolles Associates. He taught us how to listen so that we can better understand our clients. In addition to the thought leaders, our sponsors also gave some excellent presentations. One of the comments I overheard in the hallway was, “Just when I thought I knew everything about insurance, LLiS taught me some new things!”   

The real stars of the show were our own ACP speakers. Ken Robinson gave several presentations, including one with ACP’s founder Bert Whitehead; Troy Von Haefen presented on practice profitability; and Lois Basil and Hannah Basil Bryant spoke about raising your fees and showing your value—just to name a few. More than once I had to make a tough decision because I wanted to go to several different presentations that were all at the same time. I heard many attendees say that they couldn’t wait to hear all the presentations because there were so many good options.

Our slate of excellent presentations wasn’t the only highlight of the conference; our very own Bert Whitehead, the founder of ACP, threw one heck of a retirement party. We were able to celebrate his successes as a pioneer of the fee-only movement. As the founder of a successful financial planning practice, Bert has been a teacher, mentor, and friend to many. There were several moving, funny, and thankful tributes to Bert for all of his success, guidance, and generosity in sharing wisdom with all of us. We’re so thankful for what Bert created and we look forward to honoring his legacy by continuing to grow the ACP community.

It was an honor to be the chair of the ACP Conference this year. It was great to work with the Conference Committee and to organize such a fabulous event. I, like many ACP members, look forward to the 2019 conference for all the good things it will bring. We hope to see you in San Diego!