The most influential people in our lives are the advocates and educators who speak on our behalf and teach us how to stand up to the challenges we face. Advisors fill that role for clients as they guide them through the various challenges of their lives: retirement planning, saving for children’s education, creating a legacy to hand down to children and other beneficiaries.
The advocates and educators featured here do the same for advisors, by helping them decipher unwieldy regulations to avoid running afoul of regulators. They’re working to attract a qualified new workforce that will help them serve the new generation of clients. They’re helping them think past CRM and social media to see how technology will really change the industry in the future.
Here are nine leaders from the 2016 IA 25 who are bringing clarity to advisors’ day to day work.
Laurie Belew, FPA NexGen
Although some advisors are still asking where to find young advisors to bring into their firms, Belew noted the new question on everyone’s mind is how to engage them and show them financial services can be a fulfilling career.
“Just in the last 10 years since I’ve been in the industry, the conversation has really changed from, ‘What do we do with these people?’ to ‘How can we make this a career for people who are interested?’” she said.
As chair of FPA NexGen, one way to do that is by focusing on the community. “As we’ve grown through grassroots efforts, people are looking to connect on a regular basis in their local communities, so we’re trying to support those efforts,” she said. “Every community is different, but as much as we can help [advisors] structure and help them overcome challenges, we’re trying to position ourselves to be a great resource for them in that regard.”
Marty Bicknell, Mariner Holdings
Marty Bicknell, the CEO of Mariner Holdings, is above all an innovator who knows how to build a company from the bottom up, extending its reach in ways that don’t follow the standard models in the financial advisory industry.
For example, Mariner Holdings created Montage, its asset management division, in 2010 to serve advisors outside Mariner Wealth Advisors. Following the financial crisis, when it became clear to Bicknell that mass affluent clients outside of Mariner needed financial advice but weren’t getting it, Mariner created a new firm, FirstPoint to serve that population. It didn’t develop a robo-advisor as other firms had done but created a full-service advisory firm as a “solution for the advisor who doesn’t want to reduce his or her minimum,” said Bicknell. All they have to do is refer that business to FirstPoint.
“I’m a firm believer that we’re in a bull market for advice,” he said. “Clients of all makeups and sizes want advice, but the way we’re going to deliver it over time will change.”
Kol Birke, Commonwealth Financial Network
As the senior vice president of technology product evolution and a financial behavior specialist at Commonwealth, Birke brings together two of the most pressing issues advisors face: delivering excellent client service and implementing efficient technology.
He views technology as an amplifier, something that provides the fundamental bedrock for the proper functioning of the behaviorally-based approach to financial planning that is Commonwealth’s.
He pointed to self-driving features in cars to help prevent crashes as an example of behavioral science amplified by technology. “In the same way, we could design a client portal that, when they dial in, shows them how bad the market is doing and that will then prompt them to make [better] decisions. Or, we could show them through technology that even though the market is bad, it will recover, and we can do that by coming up with solutions and visuals that will prompt positive behavior.”
Fred Reish, Drinker Biddle & Reath
Reish, based in Drinker Biddle’s Los Angeles office, serves a nationwide clientele of hedge funds and mutual fund managers, RIAs, insurance brokers and broker-dealers, as well as banks and trust companies. But, following the long-awaited release of the Department of Labor’s final fiduciary rule on April 6, it’s broker-dealers that are clamoring for his help in deciphering the rule.
The changes for BDs in DOL’s rule “are revolutionary and highly disruptive,” Reish said. “These rules are truly complex.”
For BDs, the biggest challenge is that DOL’s rule is “essentially based on a fee-for-service concept, and [those regulations are] being applied to a transaction-based industry.”
What’s more, he added, “the fiduciary standard is different from the suitability standard and more demanding.”