The annual Schwab Advisor Services Impact conference always draws big attendee crowds and big-name speakers, and this year’s gathering, which runs from Tuesday through Saturday, is no exception. But since Impact 2011 is being held in Schwab’s hometown of San Francisco, this year’s conference has a distinctly California and independence theme, with an international flavor noticeable as well.
In an interview last week, Nick Georgis of Schwab said that while the Schwab team is “excited about doing this in our home town,” the major theme of the conference will be that “so many advice givers are continuing to join the ranks of independence, embracing a fiduciary responsibility.”
With that ongoing movement toward independence, Georgis (left) said, there is increased interest among RIAs in learning “how do I become a best-managed firm,” much like the annual recipients of the Schwab Impact Awards, which will be revealed Thursday morning by Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger and Schwab Advisor Services’ executive VP Bernie Clark.
This year’s Impact—which will be covered onsite by AdvisorOne’s John Sullivan, Janet Levaux and Jamie Green—will have more than 4,000 total attendees, Georgis said, and with a week to go before its formal start, Georgis said advisor attendance was approaching the same level as the biggest Impact conference, held in Las Vegas in 2007, the year that marked 20 years of Schwab providing custodial services for RIAs.
The conference begins with none other than California’s Bill Gross speaking to Schwab’s LizAnn Sonders in a Tuesday afternoon sit-down moderated by CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen. The ‘bond king’ from Pimco has been even more visible than usual lately with his pronouncements on quantitative easing and the U.S. debt downgrade and, this week, that European and U.S. economic policies are stifling growth.
Georgis noted that “Chuck is the host” of Impact 2011 this year, and Charles Schwab himself will sit down for a “fireside chat” with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning following the announcement of the Impact Award winners. Chuck Schwab, said Georgis, “has such admiration for entrepreneurs and advisors; people will hear that,” along with Schwab’s opinions on the economy and markets. (Schwab recently wrote an OpEd that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on the need for less regulation to support entrepreneurs.)
Charlie Rose of PBS will moderate on Wednesday, another California-themed general session, specifically on the state of the venture capital market within and without Silicon Valley, with Jim Breyer of Accel and Bill Draper of Draper Richards.
“Advisors like hearing the inside story,” said Georgis in the interview, “that’s why we have the VC people here,” but there’s also plenty of interest in “how connected the world is now, and the levers around the world that have an impact on our [advisor] clients.” That’s why there are multiple education sessions on international and emerging markets investing, and also why Schwab has scheduled a keynote speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the U.K. on Wednesday morning.
Schwab itself will focus on developments in its Intelligent Integration project during Impact, with hands-on demonstrations in the exhibit hall. It will also be the first Schwab show with a mobile conference app for attendees and while Schwab is famous for distributing backpacks and outerwear to attendees, Georgis pointed out that Schwab will allow advisors to donate that merchandise to charity.
The final morning speaker will be astronaut Mark Kelly, a decorated Navy captain who also is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in an attack on Jan. 8 in her home state of Arizona.