This year’s Schwab IMPACT 2022 conference returned to an in-person format for the first time in two years due to COVID and hosted 5,000 live attendees at the Colorado Conference Center, with somewhere around 2,500 of those attendees being advisors.
What’s even more significant with this year’s IMPACT was that the this was the first time in conference history of bringing together advisors on both the Schwab and TD Ameritrade custodial platforms under the same roof since TD Ameritrade was acquired by Schwab back in 2019.
For both reasons above, there was a great deal of hype, enthusiasm, and everything else in-between that had been building up amongst the two, soon-to-be one, Schwab/TD Ameritrade ecosystem leading up to this year’s conference.
While there has been very good reporting on the speakers and key themes discussed at this mega-conference, we asked Institute Founding member Kristian Borghesan of FutureVault - a leading provider of secure document exchange and Digital Vault solutions for the financial services and wealth management industry - to provide us with a conference participant review from his perspective as a FinTech CMO.
Key Takeaways from the Schwab IMPACT 2022 Conference by Kristian Borghesan, CMO, FutureVault
At the beginning of November, our team here at FutureVault exhibited at Schwab Advisor Services' annual IMPACT conference in Denver, CO. Widespread excitement and contagious energy filled the conference center over the course of the three days and not once did this level of energy dissipate or fizzle out.
The energy levels were high, the people were amazing, the keynotes and presentations were thought-provoking and rich with insight, the events and socials were buzzing, and most importantly, there was optimism and encouragement for a bright future ahead.
While there are many important takeaways, there are a few that stand out more than others and areas that really seemed to ‘click’ and resonate with the majority.
1) The Schwab and TD Ameritrade Integration will be complete by Labor Day 2023
Charles Schwab’s acquisition of TD Ameritrade has been the single largest story and development in the RIA custodial space in the last few years. The deal, which was announced in late 2019 and officially closed in the Fall of 2020, brings together two multi-trillion-dollar RIA custodians and their ecosystems, creating a massive integration process to transition advisors and clients from the TD platform to Schwab.
This multi-trillion-dollar integration of the two platforms makes Schwab the largest RIA custodian, by a landslide. To put it into perspective, the two platforms are responsible for more than half of all assets managed by Registered Investment Advisors.
And now, the complete integration of the Schwab and TD Ameritrade platforms and ecosystems has a final date — Labor Day 2023. This means that the transition for advisors currently on TD Ameritrade Institutional over to Schwab Advisor Services will likely take place over the 2023 Labor Day weekend.
An applauded moment during the IMPACT opening remarks was when Schwab’s Head of Advisor Services, Bernie Clark, confirmed with the audience (advisors) that Schwab does not intend to implement a custodial fee that some other RIA custodial competitors have been considering amidst market headwinds.
While there is certainly lots that can happen from now until the Labor Day 2023 weekend, the industry will certainly be playing close attention to the progression and eventual completion of the Schwab and TD Ameritrade integration.
2) Personalization continues to be a critical theme for Advisors
The significance of the topic, or rather the theme, of Personalization continues to be echoed across the country and throughout conference halls everywhere.
During the opening ceremony and remarks, Bernie Clark and Walt Bettinger signaled just how significant personalization is and how this "theme" is central to everything in modern-day wealth management. Bettinger even called and compared personalization to that of a freight train for Advisors.
Meaning this shift in consumer behavior and new client expectations are coming at Advisors faster than many may realize and/or acknowledge. This is very telling of where the industry needs to go and where it is very evidently headed.
The Digital Client Experience, and Personalization as an extension, needs to be prioritized across every single level of the organization. Plain and simple.
This is no longer an Advisor-only duty and obligation, but rather an organization-wide strategic narrative that simply must be baked into the DNA of modern financial services and wealth management firms.
Julie Littlechild and her team at Absolute Engagement are huge advocates of personalization and helping Advisors take their digital client experience to the next level. At this year’s IMPACT, Julie shared some of her recent thinking around mindset, engagement, and the future of client experiences during her session which was called How Client Mindset is Changing the Client Experience. When it comes to this topic, Julie and her team are undoubtedly at the top of the expert list -- if you are not following Julie, you need to be.
Keeping with the theme of personalization, Chris Volpe, Managing Director at Zephyr shared his thoughts at IMPACT regarding how technology is enabling better client relationships by affording firms and advisors the ability to personalize communications at scale, in a way that really matters for clients.
3) Frictionless client onboarding and account opening workflow is a major area of focus
Creating the ultimate onboarding experience, one that is frictionless, easy, and enjoyable for clients, will continue to drive strategic narratives and influence spending in 2023.
From better back- and front-office enrichment and automation to more tightly integrated processes with e-signature capabilities, firms are looking to shape their onboarding process to button up compliance and security concerns, improve professional productivity by saving valuable time, and most importantly, to deliver the best possible client experience.
This was evident in the hundreds of conversations our team had with advisors and back-office teams. One of the (many) areas that really stood out during these conversations was FutureVault’s e-signature automation and capabilities to create a new client Vault and automatically deliver all e-signed onboarding documents directly into specific folder locations in one or many Vaults instantaneously. For the back office and compliance teams, this gives confidence in a secure delivery method of critical documents while meeting document retention requirements. For the front office and advisors, it means less time is spent manually sorting, filing, and sending documents to clients. And for the client, it means that any-and-all signed documents by the client are available and accessible to them in their personal digital vault.
Remember, the initial onboarding experience and account opening process can often pave the way for a long, healthy relationship; the opposite can also be true.
4) Technology enables business outcomes and helps you deliver and improve your value proposition
Over the last several years, we have witnessed the role technology has played and how it has evolved to be cornerstone to wealth management.
What once used to be a nice-to-have has now evolved into a must-have to thrive and survive in today’s landscape.
Your technology stack isn’t just pieces of technology “glued” together in separate areas to achieve individual outcomes. It has become more strategic than that and must be deployed to compliment and elevate your strategic narrative.
Shirl Penny, CEO of Dynasty Financial Partners, delivered a great presentation full of takeaway insights on how (and why) firms absolutely must look to tech-enable their business. Shirl’s presentation really resonated with our team and our philosophies, but what caught my attention on one of his slides was the question he posed at the bottom, “Can you double your number of clients without doubling your headcount?”.
In the same presentation, Shirl breaks down four components of WealthTech:
- Data Analytics.
This thought-provoking question and the four components above, imply just how critical technology has become and will continue to become to deliver business outcomes, improve upon strategic decision-making, and be central to the value proposition of your firm in 2023 and beyond.
5) 360 Integration is critical for WealthTech providers
Wealth management firms and advisors are feeling the pressure when it comes to making technology decisions, and rightfully so. It is not only critical, but rather necessary, that integration and Open APIs exist for modern WealthTech firms.
The lack of connectivity and seamless integration is a very prominent challenge across the industry. As firms venture down the path of siloed technology implementations, we continue to see the rise of integration challenges, amongst other significant challenges which include resource allocation, financial risks, loss of productivity, and a poor client experience.
But what’s more of a challenge than the lack of integration between technology providers is the lack of connectivity and integration into operational processes and client workflow.
From back and middle office tools and technology to advisor-facing and client-facing portals, the winning recipe is creating an ecosystem of best-of-breed technologies that create, in the words of AppCrown’s Franklin Tsung, a “Digital Advisor 360 Platform”.
Franklin Tsung also predicts that many advisors will soon be looking at their technology stacks as tech providers consolidate. During an interview at IMPACT, he shares why many independent advisors will be looking at multi-custodial, independent technology that can help them scale in the year ahead, such as online communities, document vaults, portals, and marketing integration that connect seamlessly with CRM systems.