2012 TechLeaders Conference: Unusual Format a Hit With Attendees, Vendors

While ‘pay-to-play’ might make advisors uncomfortable, IT staff finds no conflict of interest

A rapid-fire slew of presentations opened the 2012 TechLeaders Broker-Dealer Technology Conference in Dallas on Tuesday. The conference featured 30 technology vendors presenting to broker-dealer executives and IT staffers.

Peter Montoya“We designed the conference to be a one-stop shop for BD decision-makers to hear about the latest technology designed specifically for them,” said the conference organizer, Peter Montoya (left), proprietor of Peter Montoya Inc. and MarketingLibrary.net. “We also want it to be a forum for broker-dealers to be able to communicate their needs to technology vendors in a group setting. It provides a great opportunity for BD executives to talk to one another as well.”

The genesis for the show, according to Montoya, was what he saw as too much wasted time and homogenization at other industry conferences. What if he could bring together dozens of vendors and BD firms that are candidates for their services over a two-day period to present all at once, thereby reducing the need for additional travel throughout the year, which increasingly consumes both time and budgets?

“There are over 50 broker-dealers represented,” he added. “Marquee firms like Cetera, LPL Financial, Waddell & Reed, ING Financial Partners, and Securities America were all in attendance along with many others. It’s rumored some of the largest firms are spending upwards of $60 million on technology each year. We asked ourselves that with such a 'horse race' in the industry, why someone had not thought of this before.”

Vendors paid for speaking time that ranged from as little as five minutes to as much as 55 minutes, depending on the sponsorship package purchased.

So was the “pay to play” format a concern for attendees?

“Obviously, something like this would be a major concern in the investment advisory space because of inherent conflicts of interest,” said Aaron Spradlin, vice president of IT with United Planners Financial Services, a Phoenix-based broker-dealer. “It isn’t the same with technology. It’s hard for us to acquire technology intelligence at a firm of our size. A conference of this type provides that face-to-face interaction, because I’m buying the relationship as much as the technology.”

Firms like Orion Advisor Services and Redtail Technology, with whom United Planners already does business, are a good fit with the BD from a culture standpoint, something they can explore at a TechLeaders-style conference.

For a vendor like Broadridge Financial Solutions, a global financial services technology and outsourcing company, the conference’s unique format allows it to position itself as a thought leader in the BD space, say Alan Giancaterino, the firm’s vice president of broker-dealer business solutions.

“People are fatigued by the classic conference format,” Giancaterino said. “When I heard about TechLeaders, it intrigued me. I figured if it intrigued me, it would intrigue broker-dealers.  That turned out to be correct based upon the great attendance and interaction with BD execs that TechLeaders provided.

“After all the acquisitions Broadridge has made over the last several years, we saw this as a great opportunity to get BDs to identify with all the various businesses that are now a part of the Broadridge family” he added. “We wanted to see that eureka moment, when people connected the dots about what we offer and how we can help their firms. Financial services is the quintessential relationship business.  Doing something like this that breaks the mold and gets people’s attention is good for the industry overall.”

Spradlin of United Planners says it helps him to figure out if he should “build or buy” a particular piece of technology.

“Whenever I have a clear understanding of the challenges other firms face, how they're dealing with it and the solutions vendors can provide, it helps me prioritize what I should be working on,” he concluded. “It’s very hard to come by business intelligence of that sort in other settings.”

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