February 6, 2012

A Recap of the TDAI National Conference

I just returned from the TD Ameritrade Institutional 2012 National Conference in Orlando, FL.  They named the three-day conference "Shaping the Future Together."  Here are some brief highlights for those that weren't able to attend this event.


TD put together a full agenda for the pre-conference day on Wednesday.  Attendance was actually pretty high considering it was a "pre-day."  The sessions were heavily weighted towards demonstrating how technology can help RIAs manage their practices more efficiently.  This was also TD's opportunity to demonstrate their Veo platform, with a number of sessions devoted to educating users.  They did a good job at folding in a number of topics presented by industry consultants like Chris Maury from Laser App Software, Spenser Segal from ActFi, and Ryan Fauls from eMoney Advisors.  (See conference link for all presenters.)

Keynote Speakers

No question, the keynotes were all really fantastic.  On the technology-focused pre-conference day, Joel Bruckenstein (Technology Tools for Today) discussed his views on the latest trends in advisor technology.  

We then got a heavy dose of foreign policy through the eyes of Robert Gates (former US Secretary of Defense) and Dick Cheney.  Their messages were frank and often sobering.  

Sheila Bair (former FDIC Chairman) did an excellent job of putting recent advisor regulation in perspective.  Personally, I appreciated the point she made about Dodd-Frank, calling in "imperfect" but overall we are better off for it.

Economic and market views were delivered by TD Bank Chief Economist Craig Alexander and Wharton Professor Dr. Jeremy Siegel.  Both sessions were very heavily attended and the advisor audience seemed very willing to engage with both.

Tom Bradley gave a great talk on the state of the RIA industry and where TD sees themselves as a catalyst for advisors "going independent."  He also devoted a significant amount of time talking about TD's options trading capabilities and acquisition of Thinkorswim.  (I would say that about 10% of the advisors attending were active users of options in their investment strategies.)

Fred Tomczyk's (President and CEO, TD Ameritrade) talk turned into a surprise interview by CNBC's Mandy Drury.  Great format for his broad message about how important the US wealth management industry will be for TD's future growth plans.

Primary Themes

1)  Social Media. Wow! There was a very large area designated as the "Social Media Lab" and it was jammed on Thursday and Friday.  Advisors were really curious about how to incorporate social media into their daily lives.  And the social media experts manning the lab were swamped with inquiries.  LinkedIn had a very strong presence, with two representatives from their "financial services" group that were very knowledgeable about our industry.  One advisor I met described social media this way: "I resisted up to now but I will test the waters in 2012."  TD also promoted Twitter updates from attendees so check out #TDAI2012 on Twitter to see comments from the conference.

2)  Compliance & Practice Management.  Like many RIA conferences, practice management was prevalent in the agenda and was at top-of-mind among the majority of advisors.  The usual topics like the importance of efficiency and client segmentation were covered very well.  Likewise, compliance and regulatory change was the topic of many breakout sessions.  It seemed like advisors were particularly interested in the subject of changes in ERISA regulations as well as the impending "SEC to State" switch for mid-sized advisors.

3) Retirement Opportunity.  The topic of retirement came up a number of times and there were three breakout sessions devoted to the advisor's opportunity to capture retirement assets, fiduciary roles, as well as upcoming changes in ERISA regulations.  I am looking forward to watching this continued trend and was happy to see that TD offered so much content on this.

One more thing that I thought was great.  TD set up a Red Cross booth so that attendees could fill bags of essential products for homeless veterans.  TD donated 2,000 bags and attendees were given the opportunity to fill bags as they walked to and from sessions.  Seeing the crowd around the Red Cross booth was so great and TD leadership did a great job of promoting this effort.


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