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The Breakfast Club

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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.”

“I hear all the time from advisors, ‘I’ll be in heaven when I have [a certain technological capability],’” added ActiFi founder and CEO Spenser Segal. “The fact is he can.”

The contrast with Cheney, Gates, et al., couldn’t have been more striking. I understand Washington wears on a person (how could it not?), but I couldn’t help but be all the more impressed with my breakfast companions as a result. We’ve decided to make it a semi-annual event: a technology “Algonquin Roundtable” without the cynicism and snark. The pace of technological innovation certainly warrants it, and we’ll report on the results.

Speaking of results, IA marketing contributor Peter Montoya certainly has them for his TechLeaders 2012 conference in Dallas, March 19–21. Geared to broker-dealer executives and their affiliated reps, the agenda will feature a roster of leading technology platforms and their capabilities and importance to your business. Full disclosure: Investment Advisor is the media sponsor, but if you’re looking for the “new, new thing” to give your business that competitive edge, we hope to see you there. More information is available at


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