To: MMI Members
From: Roger Paradiso, Chair, MMI Board of Governors, and Craig Pfeiffer, President & CEO
Date: December 7, 2017
It has been a milestone year for MMI. As we marked our 20th anniversary, it was natural to look back and reflect on the myriad changes our industry has gone through over the past two decades. In the advisory solutions space, we have learned to take change and evolution as a given. That’s why it was so striking to hear speaker after speaker at our recent Annual Conference in Chicago emphasize that we are currently navigating what is perhaps the most profound period of change and transformation that any of us have seen during our entire careers.
Who knows how we will feel looking back 20 years from now? To steal a phrase from the Broadway smash Hamilton, will we witness “The World Turned Upside Down?” Probably not…but we are betting it will continue to be an interesting ride. As we enter our third decade, MMI remains fully committed to supporting the evolution and professionalism of Investment Advisory Solutions. Our initiatives and activities reflect an organization-wide determination to be a trusted resource for our members – one that enables, facilitates and shepherds industry leadership and growth.
As we close 2017 and look ahead to the new year, it is an appropriate time to provide updates on the six key pillars of MMI member benefits and services, highlighting important initiatives that we have been working on:
Membership – In a period of industry consolidation, membership remains strong at 163 firms, with 18 new member firms added year-to-date and retention at 88%. It’s worth noting that 74 firms have been members for 10 years or more, and that 18 go all the way back to MMI’s inception in 1997. That’s longevity! With the industry’s continued migration to advisory solutions, we are seeing interest in membership from small- and medium-size asset managers, solutions providers, and organizations that have traditionally been more commission- or product-oriented. If you know a firm that would be a good candidate for membership, please contact Arlen Oransky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conferences and Events – MMI has always been known for its conferences, but our goal at the beginning of the year was to take our major events to a new level. How did we do? Both the 2017 Sales & Marketing Leadership Summit and the Annual Conference sold out early and garnered outstanding reviews. The three-day format of the Annual Conference with its dedicated subject-matter tracks was a hit – and broke all previous attendance records with 520 registrants. If you couldn’t join us in Chicago and want to know what all the buzz was about, here’s a quick Conference recap.
Our busy 2017 calendar also featured smaller regional and thematic events – including our first-ever Distribution Leadership Forum geared to wholesalers and distribution teams and successful reprises of the Emerging Asset Managers Forum, Alternative Investments Forum, Chairman and President Report December 2017 Legal & Compliance Seminar, Leadership Pathway Seminar, and Toronto Wealth Management Summit. We also hosted our executive Connect Forums in San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston and seven NetMeetings on topics as diverse as revitalizing active management and the digitalization of financial services.
Planning is already well underway for our 2018 schedule of conferences and events. Mark your calendar now for the next Distribution Leadership Forum on February 6-7 in New York, the Sales & Marketing Leadership Summit on March 20-21 in Tampa, and the Annual Conference on October 15-17 in Dallas.
Building a Larger Tent – We constantly look for opportunities to connect and align likeminded communities within the larger MMI organization. In 2018 we will launch the Distribution Leadership Academy, a comprehensive program of events and training resources geared to promote continuous learning and professional development among financial services wholesalers. The Academy will engage field distribution teams – a critical link in the advisory ecosystem – in a new and very direct way with MMI.
Revitalized Member Committees – MMI’s member committees are yet another great way to engage with other members and share information and best practices. Getting involved is easy – and we strongly recommend that every member firm be well-represented on the various committees and take advantage of the industry connections and knowledge afforded by these “communities.” You can review the full roster of committees here.
Data, Analytics & Insights
MMI OnDemand 2.0 – MMI OnDemand, our proprietary online data platform was significantly enhanced earlier this year. Version 2.0 includes expanded functionality, search and filter features, standardized and customizable reporting, and export capabilities. Through member dues, MMI has made significant investments in the OnDemand platform since its introduction in 2015. To further develop the platform, we are now launching a campaign to scale the member participation and incent more data contributions. Details will be announced in early December.
Streamlined MMI Central – Early this year, MMI’s newly-formed Data Steering Council oversaw a significant revamp of MMI Central, our flagship quarterly data publication, to provide members with more concise and useful insights on the advisory solutions space. The new format, designed to complement OnDemand, succinctly highlights new developments and emerging trends.
Education & Professional Development
State-of-the-Art Learning Management System – This summer MMI invested in – and completed a successful migration – to a robust Learning Management System powered by Kaplan SmartPros, a leader in professional education. This new hub, known as the MMI Continuous Learning Center, provides simple, one-stop access to our growing suite of online educational offerings for financial professionals. Details on the various courses follow below. If you have not yet had an opportunity to check out the Continuous Learning Center, you can do so here. We encourage you to review the Center before finalizing your 2018 business plans. Please contact us at email@example.com with questions or to discuss a customized training program for your firm.
An Expanding Marketplace of Best-of-Breed Courses – The Continuous Learning Center is the new home of MMI’s Wholesaler Training Center. This popular training and coaching tool – designed to help wholesalers gain a competitive edge – will be enhanced with a second series of webinars in early 2018. We are actively partnering with other industry organizations to add to the Continuous Learning Center’s menu of topical curriculums. For example, CAIA’s Fundamentals of Alternative Investments certificate program is now available at a $100 discount through the Center, and the Essentials of Investment Consulting Program from Investments & Wealth Institute (formerly IMCA) will be added later this month. Early 2018 additions will include Responsible Investment Fundamentals from PRI Academy, Fundamentals of Sustainable and Impact Investment from US SIF, and the Investment Foundations Program from CFA Institute.
New Core Investment Advisory Solutions Courses – In addition, with the input and assistance of member firms, MMI is developing a new series of core courses on Investment Advisory Solutions, which will be available in Q1 2018. These courses, which replace the managed solutions e-learning curriculum previously available through WheelhouseEd, are suitable for anyone who needs a well-rounded primer on the advisory business.
Sustainable Investing Initiative Fills ESG Training Gap for FAs – In July, we announced the groundbreaking MMI/Morningstar Sustainable Investing Initiative. The subsequent response from both members and the media has been overwhelmingly positive, validating the importance of preparing Financial Advisors to incorporate sustainable investing into their practices. The Initiative is now moving forward with the first suite of educational resources and a Financial Advisor Forum scheduled for Q1 2018. To stay current, visit our new website at www.mmi-sii.org. There you can sign up to receive ongoing updates and early access to our high-impact, online educational courses. In addition to our Presenting Sponsor Morningstar, we also want to acknowledge our Lead Sponsors, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Calvert Research and Management, and FlexShares, for helping to underwrite the launch of the Initiative and course development.
Next Generation Initiatives
Three Leadership Pathway Classes Converge in Chicago – The future of Investment Advisory Solutions is orange! That’s the color of the name badge ribbons worn by the three Leadership Pathway classes that convened at the 2017 Annual Conference. The event marked the official “graduation” of the 23 members of the inaugural class of 2015, the halfway point in the two-year leadership development program for the 2016 class, and the kickoff for the 2017 class. For evidence that the future of our industry is bright, we need look no further than these 76 extremely accomplished and committed young professionals. See class photos.
MMI/FundFire Survey Reveals Racial Diversity Gap Across Asset Management Industry – It is no secret that the recruitment and retention of minorities is a challenging issue across the financial services industry. MMI partnered with FundFire this summer to conduct a survey of ethnic and racial diversity at asset management firms. While the results reveal stark disparities between the number of white and minority professionals in leadership, investment and distribution roles, they provide a baseline of hard data and are intended to promote a broader industry dialogue about ways to build a more inclusive workplace culture.
Gateway to Leadership Expands to Increase Reach and Impact – The MMI/FundFire survey results underscore the importance of programs like MMI’s Gateway to Leadership. For 10 years, Gateway has matched African American and Hispanic students with MMI member firms for summer internship experiences. This year, the Gateway Foundation’s Board of Trustees undertook a strategic review with the goal of making the program more scalable and impactful for both the students and participating firms. The result? Gateway has launched programs focused on career awareness, workforce readiness training, and entry-level employment opportunities – as well as internships. Fundraising for the new model got off to a rousing start during the Annual Conference, with the announcement of a significant personal donation by John Coyne, Vice Chairman of Brinker Capital, to create the Ryan Widger Career Awareness Fund, which will underwrite on-campus programs to introduce students to the broad array of career opportunities in financial services. To give back to our industry and help launch a minority student’s career, consider a tax-deductible, personal donation to Gateway before year-end. Learn more and donate here.
Promoting Women in Wealth Management – Cheryl Nash, President of Fiserv Investment Services, and Lori Hardwick, Founder & President of Advisor Innovation Labs, are huge proponents of the professional opportunities that wealth and asset management can offer to women. And they are “paying it forward” by serving as co-chairs of MMI’s new Women in Wealth Management Committee, a community of women and men committed to empowering and advancing women in our industry via shared resources, education, and insights. The Committee is being organized for a 2018 kickoff. If you are interested in participating, email Samantha Lustig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industry Developments and Advocacy
Speaking Up for Investors – The mandatory FIFO provision included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts passed by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in mid-November has significant ramifications for MMI members and their investor clients. With insight and perspective from our members, MMI quickly mobilized to make the entire membership aware of the provision and its potential impact, organized a member-only conference call with a panel of expert guest speakers, and sent a letter to Republican members of the Senate and House urging them to remove the mandatory FIFO provision from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Recognizing Leadership and Innovation – In 2017, MMI was pleased to welcome Barron’s, one of the most respected names in financial journalism, as co-presenter of our annual Industry Awards honoring firms that have raised the bar by delivering ground-breaking advisory solutions and related programs for financial advisors and investors. A record number of nominations were received this year in seven different award categories. MMI is proud to salute all the finalists and congratulates the winners -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BlackRock, Brinker Capital, Envestnet, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and NextShares Solutions – for their achievements. We also salute Matt Witkos of Eaton Vance who was honored as MMI’s 2017 Advisory Solutions Pioneer.
Focus on Thought Leadership – MMI’s commitment to thought leadership is the common thread that underlies our conferences, webinars, and publications. We seek to provide members with timely information and informed points of view on topics that have a direct impact on their advisory solutions business. Some of the themes that we prioritized this year were the appropriate use of active and passive investment strategies, the “convergence” of forces driving toward the delivery of scalable, digitally-enhanced financial advice, and the resultant impact on manager, sponsor and advisor business models. To collect and curate some of the best third-party reports and articles that exist on these topics for members, we are pleased to announce the launch this quarter of the new MMI Journal of Investment Advisory Solutions. Published digitally, the Journal will provide analysis and perspective from subject matter experts and thought leaders in the advisory solutions arena. The inaugural Journal will be available for member download in mid-December, and we plan to publish new editions on a biannual basis.
Raising Our Media Profile – In late 2016, after a rigorous RFP process, we engaged New York-based agency Peppercomm to bolster our media relations outreach and better position MMI as a trusted and authoritative resource to the financial press. We are seeing the results of those efforts with a decided uptick in coverage of MMI events and initiatives and regular press inquiries from respected outlets on topics as diverse as ESG investing, attracting nextgeneration talent, and the future of advice delivery. Our increased media profile reinforces MMI’s stature and – more importantly – provides opportunities to shine a light on the invaluable work our industry does on behalf of financial advisors and investors.
Governance and Administration
Increased Governance Transparency – A Nominating Committee was created in 2016 to oversee the selection of Board members and MMI officers. This year, that group guided the addition of two new firms, both represented by highly respected industry leaders, to the MMI Board. We are pleased to welcome Cheryl Nash of Fiserv Investment Services and Pete Thatch of Capital Group as our newest Governors.
Disciplined Financial Stewardship – This spring, a new Investment Committee, under the guidance of Chair Roger Paradiso and Chair-Elect Patty Loepker, undertook a review of MMI’s Long-Term Investment Account. The Committee updated the investment policy statement for the account and undertook a thorough RFP process, which resulted in the selection of a new Investment Adviser for the account.
Investing in Enhanced Digital Capabilities – MMI continues to invest responsibly in new technologies to drive operating efficiencies and improve the member experience. We are in the final stages of implementing a powerful, industry-standard CRM solution and successfully piloted new fundraising software at the Industry Awards Dinner in October. In 2018, we will invest further in marketing automation and event management tools while also expanding our social media presence.
Consolidated Offices – The virtual workplace is now a reality at MMI! With the bulk of our team – including all the senior managers – now based out of our New York City offices, MMI has elected to terminate its secondary lease on office space in Bowie, MD. Our two team members who live in the Washington DC area will now telecommute. This saves them commuting time in the Beltway’s infamous traffic and reduces our real estate expenses.
These are just a representative sample of the many activities and initiatives now in progress. It is an ambitious agenda, but a very exciting one – and achievable with your continued engagement and support.
Please mark your calendar now and register now to join us on Thursday, January 11th at 2:00 PM Eastern Time for a MMI All-Member Town Hall Web-Meeting. We will provide more detail on these initiatives and highlight other ways MMI can help you and your firm to Connect, Know, and Grow.
From all of us at MMI, a sincere thank you for your ongoing encouragement and partnership. Happy holidays!