I want to take this opportunity to thank all the companies and firms that responded enthusiastically to our first, and hopefully annual, WealthManagement.com industry awards.
Over 300 firms, from asset managers to custodians, from technology providers to broker/dealers, submitted their best advisor-focused initiatives from the past year. It was a fantastic turnout, and I was thrilled to see the level of attention and enthusiasm behind each of the nominations—the folks who build these programs and initiatives are proud of them, and justifiably so.
The theme of the award is this: As the job of the financial advisor has matured and moved away the “sales end” of Wall Street, and grown into a legitimate profession that honestly serves the needs of clients, a whole ecosystem of businesses has evolved to help that advisor succeed. Our goal was to act as a proxy for our readers, and recognize the companies that are making outstanding efforts in supporting them.
The judges locked themselves in a conference room for a day and a half, reading each submission, to winnow down the list and come up with 95 finalists across a spectrum of categories—not an easy task. There was plenty of discussion and occasional dissent, but at the end, the list of finalists is a strong one, representing a broad range of businesses and programs.
There were some common themes. Plenty of companies are betting on the continued move of financial advisors towards independent business models; technology for advisors, which lagged behind other industries for many years, is finally catching up and improving rapidly—and sometimes those improvements come from firms that are not traditional names in the space; dozens of companies are making a bid to control the advisors’ desktops and workflow.
Another revelation: The national brokerage firms had many strong submissions, and are not at all to be counted out as leaders in the evolution of the industry. No one should underestimate the level of innovation, depth of knowledge, and sheer talent inside the wirehouses.
If your submission did not make our list of finalists, it may be useful to understand why.
Broadly speaking, submissions that simply presented a top-level corporate bio, and not a specific advisor initiative, were left off the list. There weren’t many of these, but the judges were looking for new or improved projects, initiatives or platforms. If a submission did not have that, it was cut.
Likewise for asset management firms that simply submitted their funds without an explanation of how they were helping advisors through, perhaps, a practice management program or educational initiative on investment strategies. Judges were not looking for fund performance, but rather for how helpful the asset manager is to the financial advisor.
Otherwise, some submissions were just not deemed unique enough to warrant a nod.
Firms that were nominated deserve the bragging rights that come with that honor, even if they don’t win the final award. We’ll be showcasing more of them on WealthManagement.com in the months ahead.
The next step for the judges will be a vote, taken in the next few weeks, to pick their choice for winner in each category. All judges will vote, but none will know which firm the other judges voted for, nor will they themselves know the final winner until they are announced September 24 at our gala awards dinner.
It’s our hope that the finalists will join the judges and the editors of WealthManagement.com for that event at the Mandarin Oriental. There will be cocktails and dinner; we’ll be filming video interviews with the winners, and finalists will be able to network with their peers and sometime competitors; most importantly, WealthManagement.com will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Foundation for Financial Planning, to help their efforts in education and in providing free financial planning advice to underserved markets.