As the last stop on the conference circuit for the year, the MarketCounsel Summit is known for its high-profile speakers, elegant venues and the premium networking experience it gives advisors, select service providers and industry luminaries.
The 10th-annual event held to that lofty standard as a content-rich experience that provided an interesting view of the top issues facing the profession. Held at the Fontainebleau resort near Miami for four days in early December, it hosted over 500 attendees, eager to learn about the latest development.
According to conference host, MarketCounsel CEO Brian Hamburger, business continuity is critical to the industry today, (though it’s considered by some to be a “boring topic”).
Hamburger pointed out the problems tied to not having a continuity plan, providing eyebrow-raising examples from his firm’s legal and compliance work on situations that were “entirely preventable” but resulted in bad outcomes, simply because the firms didn’t plan.
To remedy this situation and provide a bright focus on its importance, Hamburger and his event team stepped out on a long limb to bring in former CIA Director John Brennan and Princeton professor Jacob Shapiro, who explained what advisors can learn from terrorist groups when it comes to creating long-lasting organizations.
The premise, we were led to believe, is that if terrorists with limited resources can survive in a high-mortality profession, advisors can (and should) create continuity plans that can stand up to the test of the markets, shifting client expectations, an aging workforce and a changing industry.
Brennan and Shapiro outlined how terrorist groups such as Al Queda and ISIS have informal yet detailed processes for their organization charts, financing, resource deployment and far-flung, disparate communication networks.
While definitely a stretch in the execution of the continuity message, the information may have persuaded advisors and others at the event to make it a priority to address their continuity plans upon returning home from the conference.
The second big takeaway from the conference related to the Broker Protocol, a far-reaching agreement among Wall Street firms to enable the free movement of advisors, as long as the departing advisor only takes certain client information— such as names, addresses and emails.
If the departing broker adhered to this contact standard, then the losing firm would not sue or file temporary restraining orders against that departing broker and his/her new firm.
Recently, both UBS and Morgan Stanley have left the protocol, so the buzz at the conference concerned what’s next for the industry. To shed some academic light on the matter, MarketCounsel brought in two finance professors from the University of Kentucky, who revealed the results of their study about labor movement in financial services.
Chris Clifford and William Gerken’s findings show that protocol firms have been better off than non-protocol firms, because advisors who feel empowered to move their businesses take better care of them, are more productive and have fewer compliance issues vs. those who do not feel that they have labor mobility.