From the September 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Powerful Partnerships

Short business trips are often a grind, especially in the summer when lots of vacationers dominate the skies and airports. My recent trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago included 20 hours on the ground and a total of about 15 hours for travel.

What did I get out of this “experience”? The impressive results are highlighted in this month's cover story on the 2017 Broker-Dealers of the Year. The four BD executives and my colleague Danielle Andrus endured similar (and, in her case, worse) travel conditions. But, in the end, the time certainly was well spent.

Bringing a small group of industry leaders together produced a very thoughtful and inspiring dialogue. Unfortunately, we can't share the full day-long discussion here in print, but we are putting much of it online at ThinkAdvisor.com. We focus on the big topics in this issue of the magazine — investment products, regulatory change, technology and shifting industry dynamics. Other important issues, such as recruiting and pricing, are covered online at ThinkAdvisor.com/tag/2017-broker-dealers-of-the-year.

The BD executives gave generously of their time, which we hope readers will appreciate, along with their frankness. They debated the future of commissions, the many ways firms are adapting to changing rules and industry dynamics, and where the advisory business is heading. One thought that stood out in my mind after reviewing all the remarks was this overview by Cambridge CEO Amy Webber: “We’re not just broker-dealers. We consider ourselves a financial solutions firm.”

While it's difficult to assess what will happen next in the equity markets, in Washington or in other areas that influence advisors’ daily lives, the comments of the four BD leaders reveal both the tremendous challenges and fantastic opportunities that lie ahead. Their comments also point to the diversity of approaches firms are taking and the innovation present in the business.

Right after the BD of the Year gathering, news broke of a delay to the already delayed Department of Labor fiduciary rule, which Melanie Waddell explains in “Washington Watch.” She highlights the SEC's upcoming requirements for Form ADV in “The Playing Field.” Columnist Bob Clark shares the story behind the Institute for Fiduciary Standard's new best practices in “Clark at Large,” while Angie Herbers describes what's involved with adding millennial advisors and clients to your practice in “The Fast Track.”

In “Retirement Planning,” Savita Iyer-Ahrestani summarizes what fintech developments mean for advisors and clients in the 401(k) space. Cliff Stanton lays out the reasons for looking at long/short equity strategies in “Alternative Investments,” and Bernice Napach's contribution to “ETF Advisor” explains why bond ETFs are “hotter than ever.”

Mark Tibergien analyzes industry consolidation in “Formulas for Success,” while I explain Kestra Financial's recent move to buy H. Beck in “Broker-Dealer Beat.” As we go to press, speculation continues about the possible sale of National Planning Holdings’ broker-dealers, which some sources say is being held up by certain executives’ vacation plans.

With the summer winding down, I am taking advantage of some built-up vacation time to take my younger son to Japan, where I worked as a business reporter from 1991 to 1994. Of course, I booked the tickets before tensions between the U.S. and North Korea had become as hot as a searing slice of Kobe beef (as they are now). This context certainly means my 18-year-old will gain further understanding about the world and its complexity. Let's hope efforts to diffuse the current crisis are successful.

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