Recap: 2014 MMI Fall Solutions Conference

The two-day 2014 MMI Fall Solutions Conference – Beyond Theory: The Tools, Techniques and Processes That Build Personal and Business Success brought together more than 350 industry executives to participate in 15 sessions focused on strategies that support improved productivity. Keynote speakers Paul Hatch and Dr. Ned Hallowell set the tone with an insightful overview of the current state of wealth management and practical steps to achieve work-life balance. If you were unable to attend, you missed some great panels, a chance to connect with industry colleagues and leaders, and the announcement by MMI Chairman Joseph Schultz of a new member benefit, MMI On Demand – an interactive dashboard which, by providing online access to MMI’s proprietary managed solutions database and analytics, dramatically expands both the breadth and depth of marketplace intelligence available to members. Watch the video announcement.

Among the session highlights were:

Paul Hatch: The Future of Asset Management and Advice Delivery

In his wide-ranging, conference-opening presentation, Mr. Hatch – Group Managing Director and Head of Advice & Solutions, UBS Wealth Management Americas – offered a candid assessment of a series of developing trends that are reshaping both the advisory and asset management businesses. Essentially, he sees the two converging, commenting, “That’s a good thing, not a bad thing because both will benefit.” The most important development in wealth management is a continuing acceleration in the shift from a transactional business to true wealth management with a holistic planning approach that goes beyond investment advice. To compete, advisors will have to differentiate themselves by providing much greater value and having broader and deeper relationships with clients. “It’s about having fewer clients, not more, and the same is true for asset managers – they have to make decisions about how many partners they are going to have.” 

Dr. Edward Hallowell: 10 Steps to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Dr. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and leading authority in the field of ADHD, challenged the audience to take back control of their lives – control they may not even be aware they have lost. “My fundamental message” he said, “is to make the most of the time you’ve got. Avoid giving your time away, giving your chance at life away… It’s sort of a basic rule of modern life – if you don’t take your time, it will be taken from you. While the possibilities in life are endless, so are the temptations to over-commit, to become the victim of your own enthusiasms, to serve others at the expense of serving yourself…Everything is fast-paced, and when you are going fast, you can’t go deep. Modern life, if you are not careful, controls you, robs you of your time, your energy, your privacy and – most importantly – of relishing the best moments in life.”

Executive Spotlight: Point/Counterpoint – The Future of Advisory Solutions

Five senior industry leaders took a look at the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. There was agreement among the panelists that the trend toward holistic wealth management is the right way to go, but concern was expressed about the multitude of tasks that must be undertaken to do it properly. One member predicted that within ten years 90% of advisors will no longer be handling investment planning – that will be the domain of home office models or third-party strategists and asset managers. In the quest for scalability, teaming – already being mandated by some firms – is likely to grow dramatically. It was also agreed that demands for impact investing, multi-asset solutions and alternative investments are all on the rise and that robo-advisors do not pose a real threat to advisory services because they fail to address and deal with major lifetime issues. Among the 2015 challenges discussed by the panel were preparing clients for volatility and developing effective fixed-income strategies for an unpredictable rate environment.

TechOps Session: The Changing World of Client Engagement – Technology Takes Center Stage

In this session, panel members explored ways in which technology is being employed to enhance the client experience and strengthen client relationships. Investors of all types, it was agreed, will want to interact with advisors in a more technology-enabled way without foregoing direct advisory contact when needed. As one panelist explained, “It will be similar to the relationship you have with your bank – you use the ATM and online access for convenience, but when you need a mortgage you interact with a bank officer.” Among topics discussed were the online convenience tools being developed for investor use, how technology can help scale an advisor’s practice, the pluses and minuses of the robo-advisor model, and the use of digital technology to communicate with clients and to develop new business.

ETF Alchemy: Leading Asset Managers Look at How ETFs Are Transforming Managed Solutions

ETF Alchemy

This panel’s far-ranging discussion touched on smart beta, actively managed ETFs, tactical vs. strategic asset allocation and the rise of the ETF strategist, and how the next generation of ETF advice may be combining different ETF strategies in a style box-type framework. Among the other opportunities that lie ahead are the rapidly growing number of rep as portfolio managers who are outsourcing investment management, the possible entry into the 401(k) space by ETF mutual funds, and the fact that ETFs enable “mass customization” solutions that – rather than being off-the-shelf – are a customized, tailored approach to achieving specific outcomes advisors and their clients seek. “The future is providing solutions at that exact a level, and it’s coming because the technology is getting to the point where you can deploy an ETF to drive toward a specific objective,” commented one panel member.  


Goals-Based Wealth Management Forum

MMI’s inaugural Goals-Based Wealth Management (GBWM) Forum was held prior to the main conference and coincided with the release of an MMI Reports Series paper entitled Improving Investor Outcomes Through Goals-Based Wealth Management: A New Model in the Delivery of Financial Advice – the first financial services industry paper on the topic. The Forum presenters covered the steps involved in moving from customer research to the design and implementation of a goals-based program, gaining buy-in across an organization, ways of encouraging advisor acceptance, a “secret shopper” case study of the retirement income market, and how to overcome the hurdles posed by legacy systems and silos.


Mark your calendar now and make plans to attend the 2015 Sales & Marketing Leadership Summit
on February 18-19 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

(By invitation to MMI members only)