From the May 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

The 2017 IA 25 Readers’ Choice

This year, we asked readers to weigh in on the most influential people in the advisory industry

Every year, the editors of Investment Advisor identify 25 people who we believe have had or will have the greatest influence on the financial services industry and the work that advisors do. Sometimes that means people who have created the products and strategies that you use to serve clients; sometimes that means people who are making your jobs harder.

This year, we wanted to see who you felt has had the biggest impact on the industry. We polled readers in March and April, asking them to choose up to 10 people from a list of 30 former IA 25 honorees. Here are the results.

 

• The most influential person in financial services, as determined by respondents in our poll, is Mark Tibergien, CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions. Almost half of respondents voted for Tibergien, with one noting that Tibergien is one of the country’s “best thinkers, innovators and communicators of custodians” for advisors.

Tibergien is a well-known speaker and author, but beyond his expertise, commenters pointed to his generosity, integrity and humility as reasons they voted for him. One commenter said Tibergien is “continually thinking outside of the box to reinvigorate and revitalize [advisors] to move through this ever-growing industry, and he does it all with integrity and a smile.” 

• Warren Buffett, legendary investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, was counted among the most influential people in the industry by almost 38% of respondents.

Another example of how being a good person can get you a long way, one commenter noted that Berkshire’s “honorable management team,” along with the value investing-based philosophy Buffett is known for, “struck me like lightning early on.”

• John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, is considered by many to be the “father” of the index fund, and to more than a third of respondents he’s among the most influential people in financial services.

Vanguard launched the first index fund for individual investors, the 500 Index Fund, in August 1976. Since then, investors have put $2.2 trillion into index funds, according to the Investment Company Institute. 

• Skip Schweiss, head of advisor advocacy at TD Ameritrade Institutional, is an outspoken advocate for RIAs and for the fiduciary model.
Regardless of what happens with the DOL fiduciary rule, advisors are already fiduciaries and “will benefit from the public attention given to fiduciary advice,” he said in February.

Almost 30% of readers voted for Schweiss, frequently citing his advocacy efforts. “Skip continues to be at the forefront for advisors advocating for them in Washington, while they are able to focus on their business, knowing he has their backs,” one commenter said. 

• Charles Schwab’s discount brokerage made the RIA model possible, and as of the end of 2016, its custody business serves over 7,000 advisors managing $1.3 trillion in client assets, including $67 billion in net new assets. Over a quarter of readers called for Schwab to be among the most influential in the industry. 

• Harry Markowitz’s groundbreaking Modern Portfolio Theory forms the basis of most investment portfolios, from traditional financial planners to robo-advisors. MPT is so influential that over 23% of readers felt Markowitz’s contribution to the industry was more valuable than Benjamin Graham’s work in value investing or Eugene Fama’s efficient market hypothesis.

• Ben Bernanke, whom almost 23% of readers voted for, had already served as chairman of the Federal Reserve for more than a year when the Great Recession hit in 2007, and would continue to lead the Fed for another seven years.
It took three rounds of quantitative easing over nearly six years, but when Bernanke left the Fed in January 2014, GDP was growing at over 2% annually, the unemployment rate was below 7% and the Dow closed just under 15,700.

• As the average advisor age stays stubbornly above 50, Michael Kitces saw a need to build up young talent. When he co-founded FPA’s NexGen community many years ago, he lobbied hard for a maximum age of 37 for members.

With the XY Planning Network, he’s focused on serving the next-gen client. The network of hundreds of fee-only advisors (whose median age is 37) offer virtual services and a flat monthly fee to help serve the millennial generation’s growing wealth. 

• The act that bears former Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank’s names is one of the most onerous regulations enacted on financial professionals, so it’s no surprise to see that readers counted Dodd and Frank among the most influential people in the industry. Over 20% of respondents voted for the duo, more than for Phyllis Borzi and Thomas Perez, who wrote and supported the fiduciary rule.

One reader commented that the Dodd-Frank Act “opened Pandora's box that the Republicans wish would have remained closed. Unfortunately, the representative in the field is being punished as well as the middle-income earner. Even if [the DOL fiduciary rule] goes under, field reps are still being singled out as the bad guys and must pay with lower compensations and higher production numbers.”

• As a testament to the lingering effect one bad apple can have on the entire bunch, over 19% of respondents saw fit to count Bernie Madoff among the most influential people in the industry.

Madoff’s historic Ponzi scheme, which robbed investors of billions of dollars, placed heightened scrutiny on advisors. 

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