It is 3 a.m., and something appears to be amiss. Peering intently across the street from his second story window, Mr. Jones notices that the garage door of the rather large building across the street is open. The garage interior is pitch black, but he can make out four humanoid figures, their faces bathed in a bright white glow. They peer intently forward and down at a 45-degree angle. Their fingers dance across the table in front of them. Are they casting a spell? Is this some sort of cult? Mr. Jones isn’t going to wait to find out. He dials 911 and reports the strange activity.
Minutes later, two squad cars pull up and the officers emerge, proceeding quietly toward these strange figures, these mysterious creatures of the night, who by now have noticed their guests and meet their gaze. “Evening, officers,” one says in a resigned, semi-groggy sort of way. “Welcome to FuseUtah.”
“You boys causing a disturbance?” Officer Fredricks asks, but by now he knows the answer.
“No sir, unless by disturbance you mean literally disrupting the advisory space with this insane new app for advisors.”
“That a beer can there, son?” he asks, flashlight illuminating a room temperature Stone IPA.
“Yes’sir – same one I opened five hours ago. Been kinda busy.”
“Now what space are you talking about then? Outer space?”
“Negative, sir. The advisory space – independent financial advisors and the like. We’re computer coders, sir.”
Fredericks leans in and takes a hard look at the computer screen in front of him. On it is a series of green coding on a black screen that bears a striking resemblance to The Matrix. A green cursor blinks in the lower right corner.
“Okay, well you gentlemen should get some sleep. And I sure as hell hope you’re not hacking into the … whatever you guys hack into. Have a good one.”
“Thanks, officer – you, too.”
As the patrol cars roll away, the four men in the garage look at each other and shrug. “Wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last,” says one.
“Nope. Anyway, I need to plow through this last bit here. I am mere minutes away from putting the finishing touches on this thing. It is going to elicit an audible gasp from Winterberg – I know it.”
With that, they go back to work. Unbeknownst to them, two of the three programs being developed that night would go on to alter the way people interact with their financial advisors via their mobile devices, forever.
The above story is a fictional depiction of actual events at the annual gathering of coders and programmers at Orion’s FuseUtah event. The police have in fact come each year, albeit for different reasons — all innocuous — and each time have left after realizing that they had been called to the scene due to a misunderstanding. After all, these nefarious looking creatures were not only not doing anything wrong, just the opposite, the code they were working on could potentially solve the officers’ family budget problems or help them save for retirement more efficiently.
Each year, the brightest financial minds in finance gather at Fuse, but there are no keynotes or booths or, for that matter, any advisors (with the exception of a judge or two). There is no fancy hotel, no stage, no breakout sessions, certainly no CE credits – although if you could manage to figure out the entirety of what unfolds, you might be eligible for a PhD. On the flip-side of that coin, you will not find any of these folks at the large custodial conferences, not any of the smaller ones. In fact, if you didn’t actually lay your eyes on them, here, once a year, you might not even know they existed at all. This is the way they like it.
Coders in our industry are the Navy SEALs of fintech. They do unfathomable, amazing, seemingly superhuman things again and again, yet they expect no accolades. No awards, no press. They do their job – helping advisors help clients with programs and algorithms that even a few years ago seemed ludicrous to imagine.
The next time you fire up your desktop and log in to your portfolio accounting platform, which integrates with your CRM, which integrates with your risk alignment program, which integrates with your robo-advisor, pause for a second and consider the complexity of what is happening in front of you. In today’s digital world, the complex integrations — the fusions, if you will — of programs that come together to help you serve your clients is nothing short of incredible. I work with some of the men and women who make all of this possible, every day, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that they are the fiduciary skeletal infrastructure of the industry.
Just as there have always been doctors and lawyers (well, it feels like it anyway), so too have financial advisors existed in various forms for ages. The profession may be old, but the tools of the trade are modern marvels. Gone are the days of giant filing cabinets, fax machines and rotary telephones. Not only is all of an advisor’s client data stored online, but it is stored online securely in a searchable archive. Communicating with a client can be done via a dizzying array of mediums, all blazing fast, all possible regardless of the participants’ locations. This type of radical change happens gradually; only when we stop to consider it does the magnitude of the change begin to sink in.
Your clients will thank you when you implement technology that improves their lives and their ability to take control[AD1] of their finances. For your part, you’ll carry on and go about your business – serving these clients via technology that improves every week, month, year. You will have these technologies provided for you or you will purchase them off the shelf. You will analyze them and expect more and more from them. The coders who created them will tinker and toil and tweak to suit your needs and, at times, your demands. They will ask for no thanks, and they need none. They are the engine of the industry in the digital age. These are the unsung heroes – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
--- Read DOL’s Fiduciary Rule Fuels Tech Trends at Conferences on ThinkAdvisor’s TechCenter.