Last week, the 9th annual Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference took place at the Anaheim Hilton, at the doorstep of the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland. This year’s event was the largest ever, slightly edging out last year’s total with nearly 600 attendees, including both advisors themselves and a wide range of advisor tech companies and their representatives.
As the conference continues to grow, T3 is increasingly the conference at which advisor tech companies must be seen; several players timed key announcements to the conference, from a big integration announcement by SEI, to Pershing’s new NetXInvestor platform to a new account aggregation dashboard offering from MoneyGuidePro.
In addition, numerous new advisor tech companies debuted their offerings, from a Personal Financial Management (PFM) tool to a simple web-based advisor CRM. This year’s T3 event also featured a new “FAStech Cup” advisor tech competition for up-and-coming tech-savvy financial planning students, a strategic shift that means in the future the T3 conference may not only be a location for advisor tech tools but also new hires who know how to use them!
Overall, the mood of the conference was very upbeat, notwithstanding some Internet problems at the beginning and a looming East Coast snowstorm at the end that led many attendees to depart a few hours early. As virtually all major software tools have now transitioned to the cloud, and the number of integrations continues to proliferate, this year’s T3 conference seemed to mark a turning point where the challenge of advisor technology decisions is less and less about finding software at all, and increasingly about the difficulty of navigating a complex patchwork of integrations and choosing from an ever-wider array of potential solutions.
Attendees, New Initiatives, Speed Bumps
One of the notable things about the T3 conference is that it appeals not only to vendor wholesalers who want to reach advisors, but also their leadership and key decision-makers (as many business partnership, integrations and even mergers emerge from meetings that happen in-person at T3). This year’s conference didn’t disappoint in its access to company CEOs and CTOs, in addition to the usual advisor crowd.
Students constituted one new group at this year’s conference, with the launch of the new “FAStech Cup”, a competition sponsored by several popular advisor technology platforms that put forth “challenges” for students to learn key advisor technology tools. Competition for the FAStech cup included showcasing a hypothetical financial plan (built using MoneyGuidePro software), and delivering it via recorded video conference, as well as building hypothetical advisory firm websites, along with a Quiz Bowl of financial planning knowledge.
The winners included Texas Tech in third place, San Diego State in second and New Jersey’s William Patterson University as the grand prize winner, which included a $5,000 gift to the student program. Conference organizers Joel Bruckenstein and Dave Drucker committed at the end of the conference to renewing and growing the FAStech cup in the future. That suggests it may not be long before T3 is also a conference where advisors looking to hire an especially “tech-savvy” young financial planner go to find the best talent.
Notably, this year’s conference did have a few speed bumps. Attendance waned badly in the final half-day of the conference, as many attendees left early to get home before the monster snowstorm that was rolling up the East cCoast (yours-truly stayed to the bitter end, and as a result got stuck in Los Angeles for 2 extra days as all flights to the East Coast were cancelled).