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Diary of a Serial Conference Goer

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One Consultant’s Journey Following the Cloud, Robo Advisors, Peyton Manning and Cocktails

Good morning Iris. 

I am excited to begin contributing content from what I think is a fairly unique position as a marketing and strategy consultant for the wealth management industry. 

This role takes me to pretty much all of the major industry gatherings and events and provides a unique barometer of the health and growth of the industry as I navigate these migrating ecosystems, 15 – 20 times per year.

For my first post, I thought I would share with you a consultant’s perspective on this fall’s conference scene, a notoriously crowded schedule, chock full of industry developments, new content, and of course lots and lots of parties.

Advent Connect, September 8-10, 2014 – Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas

I love Vegas. 

There is no better town for a conference or industry event because it provides and creates so many ways to engage, educate and entertain.

So, when Advent Software annually brings 1,000+ advisors and vendors together in Sin City, you know that fun will be had by all.

Cloud computing continues its unstoppable march and big impact on wealth management.  Accordingly, Advent’s message was all about their new Advent Direct platform that promises to optimize the client and advisor experience across all platforms and mobile devices through a Cloud deployment.

I bounce between sessions seeking to learn the latest, while making sure my clients are having a good experience.  Best in show was the keynote from J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who gave his inside view on his “Million Dollar Arm” reality show and subsequent book and movie. 

Bernstein told the story of how his unconventional idea was shot down numerous times by baseball and showbiz insiders, only to pull it off and see it become a major success.

Capping off the event was the final night party at the high-energy venue, Club XS – always fun to watch advisors let their hair down, imbibe and celebrate their success.

I gamble and win a few bucks.

Junxure Advisor Conference, September 15-16, 2014 – Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas

Did I mention that I love Vegas? 

Well, here we are again just one short week later.  This time it is for the second annual Junxure Advisor Conference at the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel. 

Showing again the impact of the advisor technology shift away from the desktop and into the Cloud, top of the agenda was the arrival of the much-anticipated Junxure Cloud, Junxure’s product answer to the new tech landscape.  CEO Greg Friedman welcomed the sold out crowd, telling them that they can have it all – a great business empowered by great technology.

Pershing CEO, Mark Tibergien’s keynote message centered on countering a lot of the negative views from Joe Duran of United Capital.  Duran is predicting the mass extinction of small advisors, while Tibergien believes the opposite – the golden age for advisors is just beginning.

I party hop from multiple receptions held all over the Four Seasons and Mandalay

Bay properties, including a late afternoon gathering poolside with Wealth Access and a popular steak dinner at Prime with Vestorly.

I gamble, and this time, lose a few bucks.

Financial Planning Association “BE” Conference, September 19-22, 2014 – Seattle, WA

The annual gathering of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) landed this year in beautiful and sunny Seattle, WA.

To get my bearings, I go for a morning run the first day of the event to get a feel for Seattle and reconnect with this amazing city.

The Business and Education (BE) conference is the new branding for FPA’s annual conference, attracting 2,000 attendees to sharpen their CFP skills and find ways to improve their businesses.  The usual crop of industry speakers populates the agenda and the exhibit hall is bustling.

Unfortunately for conference organizers, there was a major NFL event happening on the Sunday of the conference.  In a rematch of the previous Super Bowl, the Seahawks were playing Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos, just a half-mile away.

This siren song is just too irresistible to resist, and I sneak away to attend the game with long-time Seattle-based clients.  The game does not disappoint, as the Seahawks win in overtime and the Seahawks stadium lives up to its reputation as one of the loudest and best places to watch football.

Vendor parties, dinners and receptions, including sunset cruises and explorations of the fish market and Space Needle, dominate the evening scene at the conference.

Schwab IMPACT, November 4-7, 2014 – Denver, CO

Without a doubt, Schwab’s IMPACT is the main event on the conference circuit.  Attracting 4,000+ attendees, IMPACT continues to leverage its franchise position as the industry leader.

This year’s IMPACT did not disappoint in terms of its size, scale and scope.  Taking over the massive Colorado Convention Center, IMPACT featured over 400 vendors in its sprawling exhibit hall.

The big news coming out of IMPACT was the announcement of Schwab’s new “Robo Advisor” that will be free, and promises to disrupt the industry once again.  While not available immediately, the Schwab Robo can be white-labeled by advisors so that they can use as a weapon against the emerging online, digital advice platforms threatening to “Uber-ize” wealth management.

Orion Advisor Services tapped into Denver connections and hosted a large gathering, complete with photo opportunities with the Denver Bronco’s Cheerleaders, while raffling off Bronco souvenirs as we channeled our inner Peyton Manning.

The clear highlight of the conference this year was the Gala Event on the final night..  Feeding off the bullish mood, Schwab and its BFF Wells Fargo Funds fêted the 4,000 attendees with exotic food and drink and two very popular concerts by Matt Nathanson and Train.   

Keeping the fun going into the wee hours of the night, the evening capped off with the exclusive invitation-only ETF Party.  Celebrity DJ’s kept the crowd dancing into the wee hours.

After 4 nights of fun at mile-high altitudes, I pour myself onto the plane and head home to San Francisco.

T3 Enterprise Conference, November 11-13, 2014 – Atlanta, GA

The “death march with cocktails,” or the fall advisor season, continues. 

No rest for the weary as just 4 days later, I am en route cross-country to Atlanta, GA for Joel Bruckenstein’s Technology Tools for Today (T3) annual confab for all things technology for the larger RIAs and independent Broker Dealers.

Continuing the “Robo Advisor” theme, these digital disrupters were the subject of just about every breakout session, speech and demonstration.  Bruckenstein believes that the emergence of these automated investing platforms are an inflection point in the industry.

A prime example was Jemstep. – a business to business robo-platform, ready to be deployed by the industry.  Jemstep has consumer tested their platform with over 10,000 investors representing $3 billion in assets and is making it easy for advisors to build their own Robo on top of their platform.

In a rarity for a T3 event, the final evening included an off-site dinner and party at an urban Atlanta nightclub, a high-energy event that featured a live band and dancing.  Other networking events sprinkled the evening scene at the Hilton, including Scorpion Bowls at Trader Vics with Junxure, and dozens of offsite dinners with the many vendors in attendance. 

With 5 events over a couple of months behind me, I check my calendar and see that the next milestone on the calendar will be the MarketCounsel Summit, held in, yep – you guessed it – Las Vegas in December.

This MC Summit looks to be extremely well-attended with a jammed lineup of industry influencers, star-studded keynote speakers, late night parties and a hype-machine in overdrive, driven by the MarketCounsel’s popular leader, Brian Hamburger.

I’ll see you there.

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