The Financial Services Institute (FSI) kicked off its annual conference at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on January 29 with the group's new chair, John Simmers, CEO of ING Advisors Network, introducing an ambitious agenda for 2007.
The industry group was started in 2004 when a group of independent broker/dealers spun off from the Financial Planning Association, and FSI has had an impressive track record of advocacy ever since. In his opening remarks, Simmers tipped his hat to outgoing chair John Poff, CEO and president of Mutual Service Corp., and spoke of the achievements the organization has made thus far. The accomplishments he listed were membership of more than 100 B/D firms, including 12 firms that joined in 2006, and 5,300 individuals; growing influence on Capitol Hill, signified by last year's Public Policy Day in which leaders of multiple broker/dealers met with 66 U.S. Senators and Congressmen; and building relationships with the SEC, NASD, and NASAA to help them understand and appreciate the independent broker/dealer model. Notably, Simmers mentioned the "significant progress" made by FSI members in the NASD district committees. Serving on the NASD board was quite educational, he said, in that he realized "that the rules were not made there, but in the subcommittees."
Keynote speaker Michael Treacy gave attendees the lowdown on how to increase growth at their firms. Pacing onstage in shirtsleeves and a bow tie, Treacy looked like the professor he was before--at MIT. Now a consultant and author, Treacy wrote Double Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve it--No Matter What, (Portfolio Hardcover, 2003); and The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market, with Fred Wiersema, (Perseus Books, 1997). Treacy told the packed house of broker/dealer executives and advisors that while he had at one time thought growth was an offshoot of a firm having the right strategy in place, he is now convinced that it is really about having the right management in place. "The best management team will beat the best strategy every time," he says, adding that firms that don't yet have the right management team would benefit from hiring the right talent as soon as possible.
Conference participants chose from five educational break-out tracks during the two-day conference: CEO, Compliance, Investment Advisory, Marketing, and Operations. These addressed issues as diverse as breakaway RIAs, to the dually registered, to innovation in back office systems.
John Kasich, managing director in the investment banking division at Lehman Brothers, host of Fox's "The Heartland with John Kasich," and former Congressman (R-Ohio), gave the closing keynote speech, a fitting choice because as an industry advocacy group, part of FSI's mandate is to help shape legal and regulatory policy on the issues that affect independent broke/dealers--and they appear to be doing that. Simmers noted that he was encouraged by NASD Chairman Mary Schapiro's statement that she did not believe that regulation should be a "one size fits all" affair. He also promised that FSI will "actively advocate" on behalf of independent B/Ds and their advisors as the merger unfolds over the next few months of the regulatory arms of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD.