The orgy of pessimism from keynote speakers at TD Ameritrade’s recent conference in Orlando had organizers double-stocking the hotel minibars. Dick Cheney was a defender of the past, justifying his controversial reactions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and ensuing invasion of Iraq. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who referred to himself as the “Eeyore of the foreign policy community,” looked (timidly, it seemed) to the future; what he saw wasn’t encouraging. Craig Alexander, TD Bank Group’s senior vice president and chief economist, was the only headliner to offer subdued optimism for the global economy, but only after a thorough examination of what ails Europe and, by extension, us.
The attitude in breakout sessions, on the show floor and in private conversations was (thank God) far more upbeat. A breakfast meeting with senior executives from up-and-coming, as well as established, technology companies was a personal conference highlight. Similar to a meeting held at the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference last September in San Diego (see “Your Silver Bullet,” Investment Advisor, October 2011), each participant had plenty to say about the technology frontier, where it’s headed and how advisors—and clients—can benefit. So much was said that only three of seven topics were covered.
“We’re at a breakthrough point,” said Eric Clarke, president of Orion Advisor Services. “We’re seeing incredible things that result in more efficiency. Advisors can communicate in real time with every aspect of their business, so it’s an exciting time for firms. What’s been developed over the past few years is now coming to fruition. It was only about three years ago that we were sending over batch files; no longer.”