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Live from T3: Prepping for a Long Life

Despite choppy markets, optimism was rampant at the tech conference as advisors got a glimpse of the latest digital advances both inside and outside the industry.

Greetings from a warm and muggy Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as the Technology Tools for Today Advisor Conference 2018 kicks off this week at the Marriott Harbor resort, tucked beside a hot and sandy Florida beach. 

Now in its 15th year, with a record 700 attendees and over 80 technology companies packing the exhibit hall, the T3 conference is the hub for where advisor technology innovation is launched and its future course charted. As the independent advisory industry’s growth accelerates, newcomers and incumbents alike gather here to announce the new products and investments that are fueling the shift, beating back direct-to-consumer competitors and taking market share from slow-footed Wall Street rivals. 

The conference kicked off Wednesday morning with a broad brush—a presentation from Ric Edelman on the impact of “exponential technologies” on human lives and what that means for financial advice.

“Most of the advice you are giving is wrong,” he said. “In fact, many of you are being criminally negligent.” 

Edelman’s argument is that in the coming decades, humans will be living healthier, lengthier lives than we expect, and thus our current approach to financial planning and investment management won’t be adequate. Edelman regaled the crowd with a non-stop list of how these exponential technologies, such as 3D printing, genome sequencing, nano-technology, robotics, the blockchain and big data would transform the future and enable clients to live beyond 120 years.

“Retirement as a concept will cease to exist,” Edelman said. “The linear lifetime where people go to school, get a job and retire is dead.” Instead, Edelman says that we will all be living a “cyclical lifetime” with multiple periods of school, jobs, re-training, then move on to a new career, and so on, with multi-year sabbaticals sprinkled in. As a result, advisors will need to shift their typical approaches toward college savings and retirement planning from one-time activities to a continuous level of engagement, funding multiple careers, as well as supporting their lifestyles for a nearly a century and a half—an approach that most advisors do not consider.

Following Edelman on Day 1 were a series of keynote speeches from leaders of the top advisor technology platforms currently making waves in the industry. Advisor Engine, fresh off of its mega-deal to acquire advisor-focused CRM Junxure, took the top spot on the agenda to showcase how Advisor Engine can completely digitize and automate close to all of the activities involved in prospecting, onboarding clients, building and managing portfolios, performance reporting, all the way through to “the most beautiful client portal in the industry,” according to CEO Rich Cancro.

Fidelity was the next to raise eyebrows among the advisor technology illuminati with the announcement of several new data and integration initiatives from their vast WealthScape platform. The Consolidated Data feature will provide data aggregation services to facilitate holistic planning, while the Insights + Analytics feature will leverage machine learning and predictive analysis to help advisors make better business decisions and lastly, Integration Xchange will provide for third-party integrations and a “digital store” for other tech companies to access Fidelity’s application programming interface; a similar approach that TD Ameritrade pioneered with its Veo Open Access initiative in years past.

A perennial T3 keynoter, Riskalyze CEO Aaron Klein took the stage to tell the Riskalyze story of growth and success. In just 5 short years, the risk number has become ever present in the industry, according to Klein, because he hasn’t let Riskalyze stray too far from its mission by binging on acquisitions. “Our strategy is to do one thing very well and then create deep integrations with our partners, which we believe results in a better user experience for advisors,” he said. 

Klein took the opportunity to introduce a new partnership with Vestwell to launch Riskalyze “Retirement Solutions,” a more streamlined and automated way for advisors to get “back into the 401k business,” which has become ripe for disruption due to high fees and creaky technology, he said.

Following the opening day keynotes was the highly anticipated unveiling of the T3 exhibit hall, featuring 80 companies vying for advisor mind-share to showcase how the latest digital tools that will transform the way wealth management is delivered. The buzz was palpable in the crammed hall as technology executives, advisors and industry consultants networked, exchanged ideas and continued to do deals. Despite choppy markets in the outside world, advisors here were feeling flush and optimistic and ready to buy what the tech vendors were selling. Smiles all around.

To catch up on the latest at the T3 conference, check out the many tweets on the #T32018 hashtag.

Timothy D. Welsh, CFP® is President and Founder of Nexus Strategy, LLC, a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry, and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NexusStrategy.

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