Recognizing the best
of the best.


This year, the honor could be yours.

We’re now accepting nominations for the IMPACT Awards, which recognize an elite group of firms for their exceptional innovation and service.

Sign up for 2019 notifications

Congratulations to the 2017 winners!

Past winners

Meet the judges

IMPACT Award winners are selected by a panel of prominent leaders from both the business world and the financial services industry.

Blaine F. Aikin

Blaine Aikin

Chief Executive Officer, Fi360 and CEFEX

Blaine F. Aikin

Blaine Aikin

Chief Executive Officer, Fi360 and CEFEX

As executive chairman of Fi360 and CEFEX, an Fi360 subsidiary, Blaine Aikin is a thought leader in the areas of financial advice and fiduciary responsibility. He became the executive chairman of Fi360 after serving as chief executive officer. Mr. Aikin led the rise of Fi360’s professional development capabilities, investment management platform for advisors, and practice management services. As head of CEFEX, he oversees assessment and certification of conduct for investment advisors, retirement plan sponsors, and other organizations to help them mitigate compliance, business, and reputational risks.

Mr. Aikin is the author of the “Fiduciary Corner” column in InvestmentNews magazine and has written numerous articles about fiduciary responsibility and investment management. Investment Advisor magazine named him to its IA25 list of the most influential people in the investment advisory community and RIABiz listed him as one of the ten most influential individuals in the 401(k) industry.

He has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Allegheny College and a master’s degree in public management and policy degree from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. Mr. Aikin is a Certified Financial Planner®, a Chartered Financial Analyst®, and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst® designee.

Geoffrey E. Brown

Geoffrey Brown

Executive Director, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

Geoffrey E. Brown

Geoffrey E. Brown

Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

As the head of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Geoffrey Brown provides the executive vision for the leading professional organization of fee-only financial advisors in the United States. He is responsible for the association’s strategic direction, external relations, and operational success.

Prior to joining NAPFA, Mr. Brown was an account executive with Sentergroup, a Chicago-based management consultancy specializing in associations and other nonprofit organizations. He was responsible for overseeing client relationships, leading day-to-day operations for multiple associations, coordinating the execution of strategic initiatives, and participating in the firm’s business development efforts. Previously, Mr. Brown served as an association manager for SmithBucklin, the world’s largest association management company, where he managed client strategies and operations, provided counsel to association leaders, and oversaw delivery of client services.

Mr. Brown has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland and a certificate in fundraising management from Indiana University. He is a member of American Society of Association Executives and holds a Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. He is also a member of the Association Forum of Chicagoland, where he serves on the organization’s board of directors.

Julie Littlechild

Julie Littlechild


Julie Littlechild

Julie Littlechild


Julie Littlechild has worked with and studied top-producing financial professionals, their clients, and their teams for twenty years. She is a recognized expert on promoting engagement and growth, a respected researcher, and a popular speaker. Her company,, conducts ongoing research to uncover the drivers of deeper engagement and the impact on long-term value and growth. That data is the foundation for engaging keynote presentations, workshops, and programs across North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

Prior to launching her company, Ms. Littlechild was the founder of Advisor Impact, where she created The Client Audit, one of the most successful client feedback programs for advisors. She sat on the national board of the Financial Planning Association from 2010–2013, was twice identified as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Financial Planning” by Investment Advisor magazine, and won the Influencer Award in practice management from Financial Planning magazine.

Ms. Littlechild holds a master of business administration degree from the University of Toronto.

Kevin Keller

Kevin Keller

Chief Executive Officer, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards

Kevin Keller

Kevin Keller

Chief Executive Officer, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards

Kevin Keller leads the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to benefit the public by granting and holding CFP® certification as the standard of excellence in financial planning. For over a decade, he has helped raise the visibility of the certification within the financial services industry and among consumers. Under his leadership, the number of CFP professionals in the United States has grown by nearly 45%. He has successfully raised awareness of the certification among the public, policymakers, and thought leaders. Mr. Brown has also expanded relationships with educational institutions and financial services firms, as well as improved technology and business practices to provide better service to CFP professionals and candidates.

Previously, Mr. Keller held leadership positions during his tenure at the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), serving as senior vice president, chief operating officer, and a manager for the organization’s programs and services. Prior to that, he held senior staff positions at several associations.

Mr. Brown has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from The Ohio State University. He also holds a Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential.

Tom Robinson

Thomas Robinson

President and Chief Executive Officer, AACSB International


Thomas Robinson

President and Chief Executive Officer, AACSB International

As the head of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), Thomas Robinson works with the organization’s board and global network of staff, members, and volunteers to foster engagement and accelerate innovation. The organization’s purpose is to connect educators, students, and business to create the next generation of great leaders.

Prior to joining AACSB, Mr. Robinson was the managing director of the Americas, and earlier, the managing director of education at the CFA Institute. He led a global team that produced educational content for candidates, members, other investment professionals, and universities. Before that, Mr. Robinson was a tenured accounting faculty member at the University of Miami. Previously, Mr. Robinson practiced public accounting and financial planning. Throughout his career, he has served as a consultant and investment advisor in the areas of wealth management, financial statement analysis, and valuation.

Mr. Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master's degree and doctorate from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst®, Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner®, and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst.

Sean R. Walters

Sean Walters

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Investments & Wealth Institute

Sean Walters

Sean Walters

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Investments & Wealth Institute

Sean Walters leads the Investments & Wealth Institute, formerly known as IMCA®. As a not-for-profit professional association for advanced investment advisors, consultants, analysts, and private wealth advisors, the institute administers the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®) and Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA®) certifications. Under his leadership, the Institute has launched several new educational initiatives and the CIMA designation became the first financial services credential to meet an international standard for personnel certification (ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024). Institute membership, conferences, peer-reviewed research publications, and education programs are designed for advanced investment and wealth management professionals. Institute members practice in 38 countries. Their average tenure in the business is 18 years and average assets under management exceed $364 million.

Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Walters served as the managing director at the Financial Planning Association, and director of membership at the International Association for Financial Planning.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a master of business administration degree from the University of Indianapolis. Mr. Walters is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and has been active in association management for more than 25 years.

Questions? We’ve got answers.

Get started by viewing our frequently asked questions about the IMPACT Awards. If questions remain, contact us, and we’ll find clarification together.


The content on the IMPACT® website and in discussions at the IMPACT conference are meant for general informational purposes. The views expressed are not intended to provide specific financial, accounting, compliance, tax, regulatory, or legal advice.

Third-party firms, speakers, panelists, sponsors, and exhibitors are not affiliated with or employed by Schwab. Any mention of third-party firms or individuals is not and should not be construed as a recommendation, endorsement, or sponsorship by Schwab.

The IMPACT Awards® are not a referral to, endorsement or recommendation of, or testimonial for the advisor with respect to its investment advisory or other services.

Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab.

Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., receives remuneration from fund companies for recordkeeping, shareholder services, and other administrative services for shares purchased through its Mutual Fund OneSource® service. Schwab also may receive remuneration from transaction fee fund companies for certain administrative services.

Charles Schwab Advisor Services® serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support services of Schwab.

©2017 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”). All rights reserved. Member SIPC. PER 0817-767U



What is the purpose of the IMPACT Awards program?

Independent investment advisors have fundamentally changed the financial services landscape by providing client-centric, independent advice to affluent investors. Established in 2006 by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”), the IMPACT Awards honor firms that have advanced the industry and have achieved success through exemplary business practices.

In addition to the recognition, the IMPACT Awards program provides independent investment advisors and independent retirement plan providers with an opportunity to learn what leading firms are doing by sharing the winners’ best practices and achievements.

What are the IMPACT Awards categories?

Learn more about each IMPACT Award.

How many awards are given?

One winner is selected for each of the four awards.

Do winners receive any prizes?

Winners of each award category are honored at the awards ceremony, with each firm receiving a trophy and a $15,000 donation to a charitable organization of the winner’s choice. The selection of each winning firm’s charity is subject to Schwab’s approval.


Who is eligible for the IMPACT Awards?

Learn more about the eligibility requirements.

Must my firm have a relationship with Schwab to be eligible for consideration for an IMPACT Award?

Yes. To be considered for an IMPACT Award, firms must use Charles Schwab, Charles Schwab Advisor Services, or Charles Schwab Bank to custody client assets.


How do I participate in the IMPACT Awards program?

Nominations for 2018 are now closed. You can sign up to receive email notification when 2019 IMPACT Award nominations are being accepted.

Is there a limit to how many nominations I can make?

You may nominate your firm once in each category for which you qualify.

If I participated in previous years, can I participate again?

Yes. We encourage you to participate every year. Best-in-Business IMPACT Award™, Best-in-Retirement Business IMPACT Award™, and Trailblazer IMPACT Award™ winners, however, will not be allowed to participate in any category for five years; previous Pacesetter IMPACT Award™ winners may not participate in the Pacesetter IMPACT Award category again and must wait five years to participate in either of the other three award categories.

Is there a fee to participate?

There is no fee to participate in the IMPACT Awards program.

Can I nominate my firm in more than one category?

Yes. You can nominate your firm once in each of the categories for which you qualify. However, multiple nominations for the same firm for the Best-in-Business IMPACT Award, Best-in-Retirement Business IMPACT Award, Pacesetter IMPACT Award, and Trailblazer IMPACT Award are not permitted.

Am I able to provide supplemental materials in addition to the nomination form as part of my award nomination?

At the time of nomination, only a completed nomination form is accepted. Later in the process, Schwab may ask for additional information.

What if I do not complete the data requested on the nomination form?

All fields must be completed for a nomination to be accepted.

May my firm use a previously published case study to fulfill the essay portion of the Best-in-Business IMPACT Award, Best-in-Retirement Business IMPACT Award, Pacesetter IMPACT Award, or Trailblazer IMPACT Award nomination?

Yes. Nominations may include previously produced content that is owned by the firm; however, information that is copyrighted by another source cannot be used.

Timeline and Notification

What are the program deadlines?

Nominations for 2018 are now closed. You can sign up to receive email notification when 2019 IMPACT Award nominations are being accepted.

When are the winners of the IMPACT Awards announced?

The IMPACT Awards will be presented at IMPACT® 2018, a leading industry conference taking place October 28–31 in Washington, D.C. Information about the winners will be posted online after they are announced at the conference.

How are winners notified?

Winners will be notified in September via phone. Winners will be announced at the IMPACT Awards ceremony at IMPACT® 2018.

Are runners-up chosen?

Only one winner for each category will be announced. No runners-up are selected.


How are winners selected?

Entries are reviewed to ensure that they meet all eligibility requirements and Schwab criteria. The remaining finalists are then judged by a panel of leaders from the business world and financial services industry who understand the challenges and opportunities facing today’s investors and those who serve them. These judges convene to review finalist nominations and select the winners in each category. Final selection is subject to acceptance of the IMPACT Awards terms and conditions and final approval by Schwab. In granting its final approval, Schwab is guided by the criteria for the IMPACT Awards program and considers which candidates best exemplify the prestige and purpose of the awards and reflect Schwab’s reputation in the marketplace for integrity, service, and value. Schwab has absolute discretion in approving the winners, and Schwab’s decisions in all matters related to the awards and the IMPACT Awards program are final.

What criteria are used to determine the winners?

Nominations for the IMPACT Awards are evaluated based on each firm’s ability to demonstrate success in the following areas.

Best-in-Business IMPACT Award

  • Business planning
  • Technology strategy
  • Practice management and employee development
  • Client loyalty

Best-in-Retirement Business IMPACT Award

  • Business planning in the retirement industry
  • Technology strategy in the retirement industry
  • Practice management and employee development
  • Client loyalty

Pacesetter IMPACT Award
Demonstrated accelerated growth in tandem with the following:

  • Business planning
  • Technology strategy
  • Practice management and employee development
  • Client loyalty

Trailblazer IMPACT Award
Demonstrated change in helping the industry reach new heights, for example:

  • Focused understanding of the unique needs of a specific client segment and a developed, innovative approach to serving them (i.e., a new business model, marketing strategy, or strategic plan)
  • Made a difference in the community through programs to educate new audiences about financial planning
  • Helped shape the industry’s future through advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C., or involvement with industry associations
  • Made strides in attracting and cultivating the RIA industry’s next generation of talent
  • Awards or other distinctions

Schwab reserves the right to disqualify a firm for any reason, including adverse disciplinary history or bankruptcies. See the IMPACT Awards terms and conditions for more information about applicable background checks, due diligence, and disqualification.

How does Schwab use the information provided through the nomination form?

Information you provide is used to review and judge your nomination for the IMPACT Awards program. Schwab and the judging panel maintain the confidentiality of your nomination. Schwab does not sell the information collected. See the IMPACT Awards terms and conditions for more information.

How is objectivity maintained in the selection process?

Schwab uses the eligibility criteria to review all nominations received. Once Schwab confirms the finalists, a judging panel of industry experts selects the winners for all four awards. All IMPACT Award winners are subject to Schwab’s final approval.

We’re eager to help.

Nomination process

Leon Bridges

His unique sound has taken him from busing tables to performing for President Barack Obama in the White House and making television appearances on The Late Late Show, Saturday Night Live, and Austin City Limits. Bridges and his band have been on two world tours. He received the 2015 Grulke Prize for Developing US Act at the 2015 SXSW Music Festival, where he was a hot topic among both fans and critics.

When you hear his smooth, melodic voice, it’s easy to compare him to Otis Redding or Sam Cooke, and indeed he feels he must carry on the tradition of soul music, honoring the great artists who came before him. But the 26-year-old native of Fort Worth, Texas, whose fame is quickly growing, has his own unique sound, with echoes of gospel and R&B.

For Bridges soul has a raw and imperfect quality that can come only from deep within. As he riffs on the guitar in his retro fedora and suit, he sings from the heart about family, truth, and love. What comes out of him is “real and life-affirming in a musical way,” says music producer and guitarist Austin Jenkins, who helped Bridges first record his music.

Listen to Bridges’ “Smooth Sailin’.”

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