The Future of the Advisor Is . . . Everywhere

An exciting thing happened on the way to Pershing’s annual INSITE advisor conference: work got in the way of me attending yesterday’s keynote speech and technology made sure I was there after all. This is where the industry is going.

Yesterday was not only the peak of the news cycle in recent memory but the day we pushed the final button to transition the old Trust Advisor to the Wealth Advisor. 

We started the day with what amounts to a Congressional assassination attempt. We ended it with new allegations circling the White House. Janet Yellen shocked the market in between.

With all that and more going on at home, I had to cut my flight to San Diego for this year’s Pershing conference a few days short. Normally that would mean missing former Treasury secretary Jack Lew sharing his economic outlook.

This time around, I got same-day video. It’s available to everyone in the industry, no matter where you are, what your business model is or which custody platform you work with.

Pershing took a subtle but strategic step into the future here. Tomorrow’s industry summits are going to be hybrid events, bringing advisors and prestige speakers together in the flesh while remaining open to a much bigger virtual audience.

Call it a cloud conference, use whatever high-tech buzzwords you like. As long as you’ve got a screen, the connections and the desire, you can “attend” from anywhere on the planet.

That’s a big deal. It’s what the clients of the very near future already demand from you. 

When you can meet face to face, it’s a good thing. When you can’t — due to circumstances, capacity or simple distance — a remote relationship helps a lot.

Melting the Walls

A few firms have experimented with opening their big networking and educational events to remote “attendees.” Pershing, for example, streamed a few sessions last year to share the experience with affiliates who needed or chose to stay close to home.

This year, the streaming agenda is a lot more extensive. I’m seeing well over a dozen speeches, panels and seminars with an online component, complete with continuing education screening and accreditation.

While it feels like cheating, in theory those CE credits are even available to non-Pershing affiliates, just like open registration webinars. “Membership” here is more of an opt-in state of mind than a matter of formal industry bonds.

It’s more of a flexible, moment-to-moment thing. I think it could be genius.

Normally the industry press gets access to secret archives of conference material so we can support our coverage and talk better about all the great things the sponsors are doing.

Opening that archive turns what was once an internal-facing event into something everyone in the industry can experience. Maybe a few turn into Pershing affiliates or at least sample the platform in even a transitory way. 

Either way, the firm gets the chance to preach to more than the existing Pershing community. I’m sure there’s a service component here aimed at the industry at large, but every individual advisor should recognize the deep logic.

There aren’t a lot of investor education seminars restricted to current clients only. Even the catered lunches are usually open to anyone who wants to bring a friend — those “free riders” are prospects willing to sample your expertise along with the food.

And prospects are how we grow. That’s one factor guiding our evolution into the Wealth Advisor and opening up to a wider range of financial professionals. 

We still love the extremely sophisticated audience we started with. If you work with truly dynastic wealth, you’ll still find plenty of that edge here.

But the dynastic market is increasingly a state of mind, dominated by team approaches and segmented niche relationships. We want to make sure everyone on the team can find something here to help them succeed in their specialized role and ultimately serve everyone’s clients better.

Pershing wants the world to see what they’re doing. If there’s something useful, educational or inspirational, they’re open to sharing with the industry at large. 

Ultimately they’re confident that a win for the industry is a win for everyone willing to make it happen. It’s the classic “co-opitition” model Silicon Valley pioneered early on: if enough innovators pursue similar objectives, there should be enough business to go around.

Surrogates, not Substitutes

The industry of the future may evolve into a mosaic of short-term transactions and longer-term relationships. For the few minutes we’re watching an INSITE session, we’re all informal Pershing “affiliates.” Multiply those minutes by page views and you build a little leverage.

And that leverage applies remotely. Your own online marketing efforts may never turn into clients where you live, but they can help build the books of allies elsewhere in the country or even the wider world. 

Pass prospects across a mutual support network of friends and you get those near-mythical synergistic benefits. 

Of course, this requires a certain leap of optimism. It’s downright utopian. But technology makes amazing things possible as long as the human beings applying it have the imagination and the will to dream better.

Jack Lew’s speech kept coming back to the necessity of dreaming better. He doesn’t see this market or the economy that drives it as zero-sum games where we’re just exploiting resources that already exist.

And I doubt the virtual will ever replace the local, so there’s not a lot of fear on that side. Formal Pershing affiliation has its benefits for advisors who find the right fit. 

Actually attending the show opens up networking opportunities at least as important as face-to-face prospect meetings back home. There’s always a cost/benefit dynamic to weigh in every decision.

I always miss the networking most. In a world of accelerating automation — “robo” — and artificial intelligence, the flesh is the edge us humans will always have.

How we exploit it in the environment of the tools technology provides is what makes life exciting.

We’ll be talking a lot about all of this in the near future. Sometimes Pershing will be on screen. Sometimes we’ll be working beside other industry players to make the story happen.

Either way, we’ll always have email, so stay in touch until something better comes along.


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