Written by: H. Adam Holt, CFP, ChFC
As a CFP in my 25th year of the financial services business I can remember a time when we had only a basic CRM, a tripped-out Excel planning platform, an asset allocation pie chart tool and a yellow pad. In my practice, if you told me ‘I could only keep one’ - I would have kept the yellow pad.
In these modern times, we meet with advisors who are still running successful practices on this tech-antiquated tool stack, and we also meet those that are completely outfitted with the most modern fintech.
And they both have something in common. Neither has enough time to stay on top of what’s being built and coming out next. And unless advisors have behind-the-scenes advisory access to several fintech companies, they simply don’t know what they don’t know.
Advisors are past the days when they can afford to be ignorant of the technification of their financial services practices. The need to do more with less is never more apparent. Who has time to compete with margin compression and digital marketing, enhanced consumer digital expectations, and our own practice management, let alone innovating one’s practice?
The truth is that even the legacy firms must innovate if there is to be any succession plan in the future -let alone practice value for an acquirer.
So what are our options for learning who is innovating the business?
One year I had my paraplanning team set up demos with all of the name-brand CRMs. I can’t tell you why we chose those firms, they simply were the most known brands to us. You probably know the names I’m thinking of.
And after 4, hour-long pitches that took two weeks to coordinate, we realized that two weren’t even close to what we were looking for, and the others we couldn’t tell apart. The internal debate ensued and we did nothing. The advisors wished they could be inspired by how the techs were different - not the same.
Apply that to the newest firms out there racking up disruptor awards in the space, and still most advisors couldn’t tell you the difference between them, or why they might matter to their practice. And frankly the time and commitment to learn about all the advisor-facing tech out there is daunting.
One look at Kitces.com’s logo map of the fintech market (which is 2x denser than just a few years ago), and that tapestry is starting to make a Rubik’s Cube look solvable.
Don’t look the Booth Rep in the Eye
Alternatives to learn about the newest advisor tech for us in the past were our annual advisor or broker dealer conferences, or an occasional exposure of new tech brought to our regional offices accompanying pizza.
For most advisors, the booths at these events were ideal for collecting branded chotchkies for the kids, and rarely could the tech sales reps seeking advisor attention compete with catching up with old friends at the bar. A heads down approach to booth attendance rarely results in new tech ideas for the firm.
And let’s be honest, all the tech at the BD conferences is not “all the tech out there”- only that which was approved for use. So once again, most advisors I have ever known really have no clue what is being built (and being adopted by their competitors).
Once the pandemic hit in 2020, even these in-person outlets for experiencing new fintech dried up. Perhaps you signed up and attended a webinar out of curiosity to see one solution at a time. Most of those I attended I found myself replying to emails by the 10th minute, as I lost interest and moved on to something that seemed more relevant at the time.
And that’s where our story finds its very necessary solution.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
It was March 2020 and the pandemic was causing cancellation of conference after conference. For those of us in the fintech world we started to get concerned. Many of our peer companies had committed 5 and 6-digit budgets just to attend these events, merely to expose the attending advisors to their tech.
So I got on the phone and started calling my fellow CEOs in advisor technology. Thankfully, many of us Fintech leaders have become friends through various conference events. We share stories of our travels around the country and talk about what we're building, including our visions for the future. This commonality of purpose (and problems), also informed me that we would have sympathetic ears on the other end of the phone.
When I asked what they were going to do, the immediate consensus was that we should hold a CEO webinar on this “hot platform” called Zoom. That would help us communicate what we're dealing with in our companies and share how advisors are addressing some of the pandemic challenges remotely.
The first webinar was championed by Cory Westphal of Mobile Assistant, Eric Clarke of Orion, Lori Hardwick of Riskalyze, Brian McLaughlin of Redtail, Robert Sophia of Snappy Kraken and myself from Asset-Map. Several thousand advisors signed up. (Read the write up from Craig Iskowitz on Wealth Management is here plus watch the anniversary panel one-year later)
When the pandemic forced us all to rethink our strategy for sharing our newest innovations, it was clear this essential medium of webinars was the way to scale the message. But advisors were already getting webinar fatigue by mid-year. It was time to do something big and disruptive, just like the tech we were all building.
“Let’s create an all-advisor virtual event where we show the newest innovations we have built, or are about to release, in only ten minutes each. No recordings - be there or don’t be there. Live, authentic leaders, and no sales fluff. Provide massive value for attendees. Keep it all about advisor tech.”
The Birth of AdviceTech.LIVE
It’s not easy to put thousands of development hours and solution thoughtfulness into 10 minutes and this was a fundamental challenge for all of us. But we knew from experience, if we didn’t connect with our audience and prove advisor relevance, the distractions of the day would be unforgiving.
So we picked up the phone and by the end of two weeks had 20 CEOs committed to sharing their special sauce. We all equally funded the program and agreed that if we had any allocated funds left over, they would go to a shared community cause. Friends and supporters came out of the woodwork and got behind the project. We went from concept to execution in 2 months.
In 2020 we chose the CFP Board’s College of Financial Planning D&I Initiative as our “Benefactor Partner” and Asset-Map wound up committing additional funds to make our collective contribution $25,000.
Hundreds of advisors attended in August of 2020 and we were hooked on the buzz. A way to lift-all-boats in our industry is rare. How else could we educate advisors, lift the awareness of the tech, and help our community all at the same time?
AdviceTech.LIVE won the ultimate validation award in 2021 for the prior year’s inaugural event from WealthManagement.com for Tech Diversity and Inclusion Projects. A shared win no doubt. 2022 earned AT.L a Finalist position in Tech Thought Leadership for the #Wealthies and a bunch of Best Advisor Conference accolades.
This September 29th we are going over-the-top for version 3.0. In addition to many of the fintech platforms advisors use and know, we made a special effort this year to get some of the newest names on the scene to the event. See the list of companies revealing their tech here.
Asset-Map will also be giving away access to its 2022 updated AdviceTech Compass - a visualization for helping firms navigate the available fintech organized by the advice journey.
In 2021 we introduced thought leadership panels and a theme that runs throughout the day. This year’s theme is “Empowerment of Consumers through Advice” and participants will get an opportunity to hear from some of the biggest thought leaders in the industry sharing their perspectives on how we help people make better financial decisions.
Unique panels will break up the speed demos focusing on how firms can address the challenge of empowering their customers, how advisors can magnify their educational voice, and how consumers themselves can promote their own financial literacy. Each of these panels are don’t-miss events and these high-demand speakers are rarely found all on a single stage.
This year we also have a special opportunity to experience something new. A live podcast recording is included of Kitces and Carl from Michael Kitces and Carl Richards. This mid-day session will be sure to create some buzz and insight on the tech that is shown throughout the day. Look out for some key messages from these two influential speakers on what trends to watch.
And true-to-form, our 2022 Benefactor Partners include four organizations focused on the next generation of financial advisors. Both Texas Tech Financial Planning Program and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay Financial Planning Center focus on degree programs for students passionate about the business. The American College Center for Equality is bringing financial education to unrepresented communities. And Finserv Foundation provides mentoring for diverse populations seeking to break into the financial services industry.
All of these are worthy organizations that are making a difference daily by investing in our future talent.
We want to be part of that
If it’s not clear by now, AdviceTech.LIVE is aspirational and different from your average webinar or virtual conference. As more people get behind this collection of industry professional zealots, the hope for this event is to remain accessible to everyone.
Advisors who wish to join for the day and bring their team can do so for as little as $50 (at least half will be allocated to the Benefactor Partners). Enrolled students in financial services programs are able to attend for free with a student ticket (contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a participating institution). If you have groups or want to bring a bunch of advisors, just reach out and we’ll figure out how to get you there.
Those who can’t participate on the 29th and have a ticket will receive recorded access for 30-days. So make sure you attend or have someone on your team participate to learn about what you don’t even know about yet. At least 6 companies are revealing new tech no one has ever seen yet at this year’s AdviceTech.LIVE.
Our goal is to make this event the best use of an advisor’s time and money all year. With that in mind, looking forward to seeing you there.