From the November 2009 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

November 1, 2009

What the Future Will Bring

What worries these advisors? What gives them cause for hope?

Bob Len is troubled by some regulations, particularly those that stand in the way of globalization, pointing in particular to "the banking rule [requiring] the declaration of foreign bank accounts," saying that a number of his clients are "giving up their green cards or citizenship not because they're doing anything wrong, but because they think it's ridiculous that they have to give all the details of their bank accounts to the government."

While all the roundtable advisors expect taxes to rise, Gordon Bernhardt admits that he "can't change the government." Instead, his biggest concern is the "welfare of employees and clients, [that I can continue to] create an environment where my employees can be rewarded and have a career path. That means we need the right strategic partners to grow the firm, to create opportunities for employees, and we can then safeguard consistent service for clients. That's what keeps me up at night."

More broadly, what concerns Len is "this need for instant gratification for everything in our lives; so clients are looking at results on a daily basis, and asking us to get involved in that whole rat race, which will affect the advice we deliver. It's difficult to remain objective when all you're being asked about is what is going on currently." Putting this need into context, Len says "we tend to think of more information as being good, but I don't think we use it wisely."

However, on the next generation of advisors, Len is "really optimistic," in large part because of an intern partnership his firm has with the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. "The kids that come out of that school are phenomenal in terms of them being able to integrate right into a business and not just be smart, but be thoughtful and comprehensive in their approach to what they need to do," says Len. Add in the technological skills they bring, and Len recommends every advisor should go to their own local university and get some interns.

Looking at the big picture, Len presents the opportunity this way for independent advisors: "People are starved for relationships, because they don't get them anywhere else."

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