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Postscript: What exactly should we make of the T3 phenomenon?

True, software vendors themselves may be more enthused than advisors, but the conflagration of information-sharing ventures on RIAs' behalf is no footnote

Author Brooke Southall February 15, 2013 at 6:02 AM
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Tim Welsh: If you're not there people say, Why isn't so and so there? It's the missing persons effect.

Mike Byrnes

Mike Byrnes

February 15, 2013 — 4:50 PM

If “RIAs have gross combined revenue of about $2 billion” and they need to effectively use technology to be successful in the future, why don’t they attend T3 in higher numbers? Are they getting the same access to these vendors in other ways (e.g. their custodian’s conferences, etc.)

It seems there is value in having a vendor-association kind of conference, but the true value is when the end clients (the advisory practices) are at an event like T3 to plan and make purchase decisions.

Mike Byrnes, President of Byrnes Consulting, LLC, www.byrnesconsulting.com

PS Tweeted this article out @ByrnesConsultin

Kartik

Kartik

February 15, 2013 — 5:46 PM

Isn’t 1% of $2 trillion = $20 billion, not $2 billion?

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 15, 2013 — 5:50 PM

Good so Brooke is a tech weenie, and that is said with all respect. lol If there are ANY tech solutions to financial services problems — we have to have them. Stat So yes, we need the best tech.

But as the money flows show, most tech is supply vs demand driven. Like all conferences have become. If there is no real demand – advisors and the industry really do not have the time to waste.

Also, the history of any tech is that it plateaus. How many more “advisor” solutions is there a market for. Certainly, Fidelity has more money than god and will keep pushing tech.

Engineers or all sorts always preach the greatest new engineered thing. Making stuff is easy. Finding real demand, that is growing — is real hard. Generally, it’s not a “thing” that makes you money but processes — involving real people acting in some way.

The other problem with tech is the instant commidifiication. Every advisor has some version of CRM, or the same and uses the same lists and contact tactics. Because financial services is so heavily regulated it is a very conservative business where “following” is the main business model. And that makes sense.

In marketing and sale, we have only seen the tech spoil CRM tactics. Client hate being “salesforced.”

By definition, tech companies have opposite incentives from their clients. They want to sell a highly scaled product with as little customization as possible to a whole lot of people. Clients are best to avoid customer-facing commodity solutions.

So it’s a bit hard to imagine what kind of joint problem analysis and solving goes on at these junkets — at old hotels! lol Of course, the conference sponsor always makes money.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 15, 2013 — 5:55 PM

Who’s going to make a tech buying decision from a conference experience? In a run down hotel? Just asking.

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

February 15, 2013 — 6:09 PM

Kartik,

My goodness. This is why I’m a journalist and not a stock analyst. I reworked the numbers based on your alert comment. Needless to say, it’s a happy error and rather surprising that nobody here or anyone else caught it.

thank you,

Brooke

Kartik Srinivasan

Kartik Srinivasan

February 15, 2013 — 6:21 PM

@ Brooke. No worries. I had to triple check my math to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I work at Morningstar and since we are a big recipient of the RIA technology spend, I am happy to see this number go way up!

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 15, 2013 — 8:26 PM

The reason why these conferences are not well attended is advisors and brokers are not technologist, not should they be. It is like a physician having to build a heart and lung machine before they can practice medicine.

Brokers and advisors should require large scale instituionalized support for expert fiduciary standing. Unfortunately, the advisor must make complex suboptimal incremental solutions which rarely come close to supporting expert counsel. And because of the disjointed approach to technology, systems are outrageously expensive and not very effective. This is why the advisory industry is a cottage industry—there is no scale and a uniformly high standard is contraversial. The advice resulting today is unauthenticated, magnifying the risk if one acknowledges fiduciary status, it not easy to execute, and kills advisor margins rather than optimizing them.

The advisory industry needs to find a way to make expert advice safe, scalable, easy to execute and manage as a high margin business at the advisor level. This is not only possible but easy to achieve—it just requires a comprehensive approach that will outdate incremental solutions.. We just have a lot of free agents running around expecting premium pricing for small incremental contributions to a comprehensive solution.

This is how the free market works and almost guarantees that none of these incremental solutions will survive economically unless thay have a low cost, scalable, comprehensive approach to expert advisory services with an audit path and third party expert opinion letters to prove it. This is transformation innovation and will render commission sales obsolete because of its high cost, absense of accountability and on going responsibility for recommendations, as its product focus precludes responsiveness to fiduciary duty and the individual needs of the investor.

SCW

Bubba

Bubba

February 20, 2013 — 3:06 PM

I agree that the only reason anyone goes to T3 is because you feel like you have to be there or you will be missed. In the same breath i have to say that it is a shame that no one gets any more out of T3 than to see an be seen. I have talked to vendors and they confim this and they see it as a wast of time. THE BIGGER POINT HERE IS THAT ONCE VENDORS REALIZE THE LACK OF BENEFIT AND THE SCALE STARTS TO TIP THE OTHER WAY THE BOTTOM WILL FALL OUT VERY QUICKLY. IT IS LIKE A LAME PARTY THAT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE AT BECAUSE THE COOL KIDS ARE THERE. ONCE A FEW START TO LEAVE THEY ALL RUN FOR THE EXITS. Sad but true.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 20, 2013 — 3:19 PM

I’s a shame, but since the recession ’08, conferences have shifted to total seller-focus. The value for prospects then drops, driving away buyers, lowering the value to sellers. A vicious and not virtuous cycle.

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 20, 2013 — 4:01 PM

Bubba (love the name),

Thechnology os the key to innovation, the problems are (a) cost and not be streamlined and (b) simplicity can not be achieved without a comprehensive fiduciary solution, yet (d) brokers are not technologist nor are (e) advice business unit managers as (f) their employing broker/dealer neither acknowledges nor supports that berokers render advice.

Essentially, there is no one to pull the trigger on innovation.

The SEC’s solution and the solution precedent established in Europe, is it is the brokerage industry must support fiduciary standing in the best interest of the investing public. The entire financial services industry is clinging to a 1940’s view of the world.

Modernity is being thwarted by the US brokerage industry even in the face of statutory imperative. This is untenable and must be resolved without compromise in the best interest of the investing public.

SCW

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 20, 2013 — 4:05 PM

Bubba (love the name),

Thechnology os the key to innovation, the problems are (a) cost can not be streamlined and (b) simplicity can not be achieved without a comprehensive fiduciary solution, yet (d) brokers are not technologist nor are (e) advice business unit managers as (f) their employing broker/dealer neither acknowledges nor supports that berokers render advice.

Essentially, there is no one to pull the trigger on innovation.

The SEC’s solution and the solution precedent established in Europe, is the brokerage industry must support fiduciary standing in the best interest of the investing public. The entire financial services industry is clinging to a 1940’s view of the world.

Modernity is being thwarted by the US brokerage industry even in the face of statutory imperative. This is untenable and must be resolved without compromise in the best interest of the investing public.

SCW

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

February 20, 2013 — 4:17 PM

Bubba,

The beauty of the free enterprise system is that people can vote with their feet and dollars. Right now it’s a landslide for T3.

I presume from your anonymous posting and large caps that somehow you feel like the loser in this election?

Brooke

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 20, 2013 — 4:55 PM

Brooke’s point is right on and the bottom line — there is growing demand.

We were with a new RIA client yesterday, and building a marketing plan. I don’t see radically new and better tech solutions helping that work but always looking for anything that can help. We are actually finding some “old school” tech to be the most productive.

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 20, 2013 — 10:01 PM

Isn’t the point that conventional brokerage support of transactions and the avoidance of advisory services support have already rendered obsolete the old brokerage format of not being accountable or responsible for recommendations.

Aren’t we just talking about how effective advisory services support is, its cost, its scalability and its ease of use in support a high margin advisory services practice in the consumer’s best interest. These goals are achievable and are within our grasp regardless whether the brokerage format likes it or not. We are simply geting more scientific as Edwards Deming suggested—“if you can’t describe what you are doing in terms of process, then you don’t know what you are doing.”

The world brokers and advisors know is about to change in profound ways all based on process and enabling technology. Old school solutions only work if you still have a 1940s mind set.

There is nothing wrong with T3, it is just that the solutions advanced are incremental and are not developed in terms of an overarching expert authenticated prudent investment process that simplifies complexity, streamlines cost and establishes professional standing.

SCW

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

February 20, 2013 — 11:08 PM

Steve,

I recall from Economics 101 that the triumph of capitalism is not its ability to create things merely at 'scale.’ Where it wins out over a centralized economy is in its ability to provide a vast array of differentiated products. To a central planner, the idea that you need 100,000 differnet kinds of blue jeans seems silly…but not to the consumer.

RIAs intuitively understand this. They find technologies that suit their abilities and that serve their varied clienteles. You can call this incremental. But I think that if a centralized system were so great that it might have happened by now. Perhaps institutions are a different animal with a narrower, more homogeneous set of objectives and goals. To constantly say that RIAs should just act like institutions may miss a larger point.

The sound of “overarching expert authenticated prudent investment process that simplifies complexity, streamlines cost and establishes professional standing” sounds good but what does it know about my plans to sail around the world?

Brooke

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 20, 2013 — 11:20 PM

Good point. It is a principal of life to expand into different niches and habitats. Business seems the same. Also, as Brooke suggests, the more different variations the more money for everyone.

The RIA biz is very new and maturing rapidly. Now it faces the brand new challenge of managing DC retirement assets. More challenges lie ahead.

RIABiz does a great job of chronicling the dynamics of this proliferating business. Fun to participate in and watch but also a little nerve wracking.

The idea that one, or even ten, processes and models can handle the complexity is a quaint notion.

Abstract principals are fine but implementation is reality. Never as simple as principals.

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

February 20, 2013 — 11:24 PM

Elmer,

I didn’t say “the more money for everyone”. If one big provider can do it, then so be it. I just don’t think that works any more than having one big advisory firm.

I also think you mean principles, not principals.

I’ll be quiet now.

Brooke

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 21, 2013 — 1:30 AM

Elmer,

There will surely be ten or more vendors who make advice safe,scalable, easy to execute and manage. The question then becomes how good the solutions are and their price.

Given presently large scale institutionalized approach to expert fiduciary standing is not available to brokers or advisors, by definition the first comprehensive solution which simplifies expert fiduciary standing will become the reference point that makes advice safe, scalable, easy to execute and manage at a far lower cost than a packaged product (limited by prospectus so it can never be client centric). It is large scale institutional support for expert fiduciary standing with the means to prove it.

If I understand your comment correctly, it seems your unfamilarity with advisory services makes you wonder if such an expert authenticated prudent investment process is possible or even desirable?

Some pretty important institutions not only think it is possible but are sufficiently intrigued to (a)bring professional standing within the reach of their advisors (b) greatly enhance their margins while© driving an unoprecedented level of investment and admionistrative counsel (d) streamlining cost and (e) tripling their earnings multiple.

Fiduciary standing is not an abstract principle as it is now required by statute and clearly defined by 800 years of common law and leading expert practitioners.

You either do not understand advisory sevices or have never been required to formulate and definitively defend expert services.

Fiduciary standing is not conjecture as very specific duties are required, over 360 at last count, which must be performed in real time for an unlimited number of accounts—the perfect application for technology.

You might want to give more serious thought to expert professional standing and how it can be facilitated as a high margin business as it doesn’t seem you have ever thought in those terms.
If you had, you would not be shooting from the hip as usual.

SCW

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein

February 21, 2013 — 3:19 PM

Don’t worry Brooke,

T3 has always made an effort to stay affordable to all. We charge some of the lowest attendee prices in the industry for a three day national event, and out exhibitor prices are very competitive, and they will remain so. We realize that part of the allure of T3 is the opportunity to interact with new, emerging technology firms that wish to serve advisors. We will continue to provide such firms with an opportunity to participate. It is good for our attendees, it is good for the industry, and it is good for T3.

Joel Bruckenstein
Co-Chair
Technology Tools for Today (T3) Conference

PS-It has been a few years since we last saw you at T3. Hope to see you Feb. 10-12, 2014 in Anaheim, CA for our 9th Annual Conference

Stephen Winks

Stephen Winks

February 21, 2013 — 4:05 PM

Brooke,

Incrementalism is like a physican treating a symptom rather than curing a disease.

Affordability, the elasticiiy of demand based on price-in economic terms, is the driver of transformational innovation and requires scale as Henry Ford pointed out in bringing automobiles within reach of everyone.

The question of scale answers whether innovation is suficently affordable to be transformational thus connecting process, technology, work flow management, conflict management in very important ways.

If advisory services is to ever embrace modernity and move beyond 1940, it must embrace an expert authenticated prudent investment process (asset/liability study, investment policy, portfolio construction , monitoring and management) based on objective, non-negotiable fiduciary criteria of statute, case law and regulatory opinion letters which inform us of our fiduciary duties.

Your interest in sailing around the world is central to investment policy which defines the client in very intricate terms and accordingly sets forth investment strategy unpon which portfolio construction is based..

SCW

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

February 21, 2013 — 4:16 PM

The fact of the matter is that in every aspect of the business, and you see this on the retirement plan side as well, more people are making more money.

We have been talking about the tech side here but even the conference people alone are making a lot more money.

Is there value added? Well, that’s the thing about demand – people voting with their feet can different from value. But sponsoring a conference is like putting up a circus tent. You put it up and sell tickets, that’s all.

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