Two years ago, at a conference Fran?ois Gadenne hosted on the emerging shift from asset accumulation to retirement income distribution, a man got up and accused him of marketing hype.
“It was very clear, even back then, that we were far from consensus on this transition,” says Gadenne, 51, the founding chairman of the Retirement Income Industry Association. “As recently as 2005, many didn’t think this shift was real — let alone building products aimed at it.”
What a difference two years make.
Fran?ois Gadenne, Founding Chairman; Retirement Income Industry Association; BostonSound Bite: “Think of us as Switzerland. This is a place where everyone can get together and have this view across business silos. Here you can entertain thoughts and have discussions that might not otherwise happen.”The Challenge: “Accumulation approaches are no longer adequate and income generation approaches are still in development. What can an advisor do when investors need retirement income advice now?”
Gadenne’s response was to found the Retirement Income Industry Association, or RIIA. Today, forward-thinking companies are rushing to develop retirement income solutions. Research firms are pushing out white papers on the retirement income challenge. And advisors, at least those on the cutting edge, are rethinking ways to deliver their personal best to their clients.
Gadenne, regarded as one of the industry’s most insightful thinkers on the subject, believes that the solution to the retirement income challenge lies in tackling the issue across business silos. For that reason, RIIA, representing just over 100 member institutions, covers a wide reach — not just product manufacturers, financial advisors and technology solutions providers but plan sponsors, academics and research firms, among others.
As Gadenne frames it, the demographic shift of aging boomers marching into retirement has fundamentally altered the industry’s “center of gravity.”
“It’s not a binary event; it’s a little more fuzzy. But business as usual is no longer sufficient. The industry is now recognizing that this isn’t nonsense, it’s real,” he says. “What the industry must also realize is that what needs to be done must occur across business silos. Typically, the reaction has been: All we do is what we know. That won’t work here. Putting a layer of makeup on something doesn’t fix it.”
Gadenne, an entrepreneur born and raised in France, has always worked at the intersection of computer technology and finance. After getting an MBA from the Kellogg School, he pursued an interest in artificial intelligence by joining a start-up involved in the development of expert systems for the financial industry. After that start-up failed, he joined Arthur D. Little’s artificial intelligence section, leading the team that built a weather forecasting system for NASA following the Challenger accident.