Protecting and representing the interests of independent financial advisors and financial services firms have been some of the main responsibilities of the Financial Services Institute since its inception 17 years ago. Because independent financial services providers are sometimes caught in the middle of regulatory changes — not large enough to categorize as big brokerage firms and using a unique independent contractor business model — FSI was created to help give these professionals a voice in the legislative and regulatory process.
“The way that the regulations and legislation can impact our members is different than other [larger] firms, so our members felt the need to form the organization,” says David Bellaire, executive vice president and general counsel at the Financial Services Institute.
But keeping track of laws and regulations at the state and federal levels to support nearly 90 member firms and approximately 30,000 financial advisor members, can be complicated and could allow for costly missed opportunities. This is why FSI relies on FiscalNote.
Before using FiscalNote, Bellaire’s team depended on disparate spreadsheets all over the organization. Now, FiscalNote has become their unified database of all the necessary information to manage their issues and stakeholders, as well as for reporting.
A Single System of Record
“We need tools like FiscalNote to help us stay up to date,” says Bellaire. His team has on average about nine issues to follow per year prioritized by urgency. To keep track of all these issues and the work they are doing around them, FSI’s government affairs team uses FiscalNote as a command center, key to building and reporting on their overall strategy.
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The FSI team uses FiscalNote’s issue pages to record all the relevant information; from talking points, advocacy guiding principles, and news links, to relevant legislation and regulation, and tracking all their actions and interactions with regulators, government officials, and other key stakeholders. Not only does this work as a single system of record, but also saves them time.
“It used to be that we had a member of our staff that went through all these news websites, compiled a ‘daily scan’ and sent it out to everybody. If you had the time, you read it, if you didn't, you hoped there wasn't something in there you missed,” Bellaire says. “Now everyone is posting continuously and if I want to see the relevant news, I go to FiscalNote. … We're much more informed and efficient.”
Then, the team uses all the information in FiscalNote for their weekly check-ins and planning. “FiscalNote allows our entire team to come to meetings prepared to discuss the latest developments,” he says.
Another benefit Bellaire’s team sees with FiscalNote is having a centralized location for all institutional knowledge that can help ensure business continuity. “There are lots of [job] opportunities for people in D.C. So, from time to time, people move on to other places to work,” he says. Bellaire has been at FSI for 15 years so, in the past, he was the sole archive and knowledge center. With FiscalNote, now all the archives are in a single platform everyone can access as needed and get the information they need.
Proving the Value to their Members
FSI’s value can look a bit different for each of its members depending on their location or business model. In the past, the organization had several maps and resources on their website but they were hard to keep updated and current.
“Before FiscalNote I think we had half a dozen maps on our website for different issues,” he says. “That just made it extremely difficult to keep up to date.”
Partnering with FiscalNote’s professional services team, FSI was able to consolidate all those resources into a manageable experience that stays updated throughout the year and shows, in a transparent way, where their efforts are going.
“We want to provide our members transparency into what we're doing but we also don't want to bury them in the details,” Bellaire says. “Our members don't have the time to dig into the 27 bills introduced today that might impact their business when many have little chance of being adopted. So we use the FiscalNote policy map as a place on our website that people can go to see what's happening in their state, and what it is that we're working on.”
Tying In Grassroots Advocacy
Using FiscalNote for the last three years has allowed Bellaire’s team to be more proactive in managing their issues as well as reporting to their stakeholders. As part of this strategy, FSI has brought in FiscalNote’s flagship advocacy solution VoterVoice to better leverage their members and strengthen their grassroots advocacy strategy. Not only does VoterVoice allow advocates to quickly take action and connect with their lawmakers to push for an issue, but also it provides a lot of insights when it comes to member engagement.
“We never really had a means by which we could identify the issues that particular members were interested in,” Bellaire says. “[VoterVoice offers] a way of getting our message to the policymakers, but as important to us is that we can see which of our members raised their hand to say, ‘This is an issue I'm interested in,’” he says. “Our members feel more of a connection to what we're doing and we can mobilize them more effectively.”
Additionally, VoterVoice connects directly with FSI’s back-office system, Microsoft Dynamics, providing a useful bridge. “[VoterVoice] always knows who our current members are, and we always know who took action on what — that's very valuable to us,” Bellaire says.
For 2021, FSI is using VoterVoice to build scorecards on legislators as well. This will provide FSI’s team with hard data to inform their advocacy activities.
Reporting Made Easy
Proving the value of government affairs work starts well before writing a word of a report or presentation. Maintaining the issue pages in FiscalNote is not only part of the workflow for FSI’s team, but also they are a vital tool for reporting on their work to the rest of the organization.
“We have six board meetings a year. In the past, we would have to write a summary of all the issues, now we're building the summary day to day, week to week throughout the process [in FiscalNote]. Every day we're updating the issue pages, the actions, and so on so that when we need a report we're ready,” adds Bellaire.
“FiscalNote offers the broadest array of tools presented in the most logical way,” he says. “And we just continue to gain more and more value as we've continued to use it.”
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