In about three weeks, over 300 representatives from businesses that cater to financial advisors will fill the ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan for our inaugural WealthManagement.com Industry Awards.
The point of these awards, as I’ve said before, isn’t to honor advisors. There are plenty of ways that we, and others, do that. Instead, it’s to recognize the businesses that have grown up around advisors and launched specific initiatives in the past year to help them better serve their clients.
That could be anything from a strategy for navigating the fixed-income landscape, to a process that helps advisors move from one firm to another, or even open up their own shop where the only person they work for is the client. We have asset management firms in the mix, as well as automated investment platforms. There are technologies that better connect advisors to their clients, widen the investment options available to them and help them make smarter choices.
When I wander through the archives of this magazine, I’m amazed at how it seems as though it was serving a different audience 30 years ago; it’s almost unrecognizable. There was a tacit understanding in those pages that advisors existed at the tail end of Wall Street; the game was to sell as many products as possible, collect a commission and move on.
But amid the discussions of cold-calling scripts and payout grids, you can feel a tension. There was a sense among the brokers that—oh, yeah—there’s a client involved here, too. And they drive the real mission.
Taking the cynical approach was always a short-term strategy. The advisors who got it forced the industry to change and are continuing to do so. Mutual funds and index investing were, perhaps, the first assault, and it hasn’t really stopped. The ways individuals interact with their financial lives are being re-written in dramatic ways—from the ultra high-net-worth investor looking for bespoke allocations in managed accounts using the smartest investment strategies around, all the way down to someone with a spare $1,000 to put in an online portfolio precisely calculated across asset classes and with automatic rebalancing features. The world of money is changing fast.
Maybe I’m too optimistic, and certainly there’s plenty of rot out there, but the overall story arc favors the retail client. The best advisors are on board, and the companies helping them help their clients get it too. It’s an exciting time to watch it all unfold, and I consider our awards program coming up this month a front-row seat.
Quiz time: John Kador’s cover story this month on financial advisors who hire advisors themselves inspired our music-loving art director Sean Barrow to reach into his own archive. Be the first to send me the name of the band, and the album to which we pay homage, in our cover art this month and we’ll send you a print.
Feel free to reach out with any other suggestions, complaints or comments as well.