My first time - In|Vest
Last week I flew from Tampa, FL to Newark, NJ and took an overcrowded train (that was 45 minutes late) to Penn Station. After a short Uber ride to the hotel I checked into the In|Vest 2019 conference in Times Square NYC. (My trip back to Tampa was just as memorable as I told the cab to go to JFK only to realize at JFK that I was supposed to be at LGA airport! LOL).
Travel SNAFUs aside (caused by me or outside of my control), I was very impressed with the two day In|Vest conference that focused on fintech. I saw some pretty sweet demos of what is to come for the financial industry. I met some industry heavy weights and talked to a few VC firms.
This was the fifth annual In|Vest conference. It has grown from 300 attendees to over 1,000. Mostly industry executives from financial service companies, technology firms and several Venture Capital (VC) firms.
Here is my take on the conference. I found three key themes . . .
THEME #1: Subscription pricing is here to stay.
There were many firms discussing the future of "how" financial advisers will be getting paid. It didn't seem that any of the firms were worried about the disappearance of the commission or AUM model going away in the near future. But it seemed that there was agreement that subscription pricing is slowly being incorporated into the financial industry.
And it will only grow as time goes on!
Consumers (and investors) are very comfortable with paying for almost every service via a "subscription model". We pay for Netflix, cell phones, cars, homes, even clothing (I personally have used two different monthly clothing subscription services along with all of the above).
But before our industry can move into the subscription arena, we will have to identify the services we are providing, the value we bring to the table, the proper pricing and allow consumers the ability to pick and choose the "level of services" they want (and are willing to pay for).
In my professional opinion, we are a long way away from the AUM or commission model going away. Only because there are not enough large firms offering the subscription model as an option. Charles Schwab recently started one, and based on the presentation given by Bernie Clark, it is going really well for them (pulling in over $1B in new accounts in less than three months). But even in that reporting, we are focused on the $1B number. Which is still "AUM thinking". Mr. Clark did not say how many new accounts were paying $30 per month (and the upfront $300 one-time fee). We will know when the pendulum has swung, when we start speaking in terms of how many accounts one is managing (and not how many assets they are managing).
The pendulum is slowly shifting and the AUM model is still around, but the Subscription model is here to stay!
THEME #2: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help advisers, not replace them.
I witnessed first hand the power of AI. But not in the creepy world dominating robots created by Skynet in the Terminator movies. (At least not yet).
AI will have the power to look through any platform that we can link to it (CRM, social media, all operational software, etc). And it is really cool in what it can do. From using a voice activated interface like Siri or Alexa, we will be able to research accounts, send emails, be notified of a client who may be at risk of leaving your firm (even before the client even knows it). We are going to have a fully functional office with the power to achieve almost anything with only our voice.
AI will be like the genie in the bottle. It will be able to do anything that you can ask it to. So the advisers that will prosper the most will be the ones that know what to ask it to do. The ones that will know that AI is tool to cut down on wasted time and increase efficiency, not replace human contact. AI has the power to create "cyborg" advisers with the power of all the knowledge on the internet and the compassion combined with the empathy than only human can bring.
THEME #3: Technology + Financial Firms = Success!
I read about the financial industry every single day (I am a nerd). I know that our industry is fearful of large players from "outside" the industry disrupting the established plutocracies. And by "outside" the fear is specifically about Amazon, Walmart, Google, Apple and Microsoft getting involved in the financial advice business.
Apple's first foray into this should be launched in the next month or so when they launch their credit card. And I learned at the conference that Microsoft is partnering with Goldman Sachs!
What the what!
They are building an app to start providing "education" (DOL Term, not mine) to participants investing money in their 401k plans. This is an untapped and potentially lucrative market with $7.5 trillion and 100 million Americans. (In full disclosure, our "fintech" allows firms/advisers to provide "advice" to the same market).
Is this going to be the catalyst for the other big feared players to dip their toe into the financial advisory space. I know that a few of them have dabbled with credit cards and banking products. But the collaboration between Microsoft and Goldman Sachs is different. It's pretty damn close to "advice" (most consumers won't know the difference between the DOL's definition of "advice" versus "education").
I can only assume that there are negotiations going on between many of the large financial institutions in the insurance, banking and financial advice space and all of the other large tech providers. A collaboration of "old school" financial east coast firms and new and sexy west coast tech firms.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall for the early conversations as I could not think of two very different cultures. The "move fast and break things" culture meeting daily with CCOs. Now that's an ongoing series I would love to watch on Netflix with my monthly subscription.
So to wrap up, the In|Vest conference was a great place to see what is coming to the financial world in the near future. I will definitely attend next year. But this time, I will check my tickets twice and head to the correct airport for my flight home.
In August I will be heading to Chicago for several meetings "back home" (I was born and raised in Chicago). And I am really looking forward to having a booth at the XYPNLIVE 2019 conference in St. Louis in mid-September. So be sure to check back for my take on those as well!
I wish you continued success and to make it a great day!
Kevin T Clark, RF is the CEO and co-founder of Plan Confidence Corp which allows financial advisers/firms the ability to provide advice (and get paid) to their clients contributing to their 401k/403b plans.
You can follow Plan Confidence on LinkedIn and on Twitter @PlanConfidence and @fintechkevin.