When it comes to the top custody and clearing firm leaders, one firm dominates the IA 25 list: TD Ameritrade Institutional President Tom Nally narrowly topped the level of votes garnered by his boss, TD Ameritrade President & CEO Tim Hockey, and his colleague, TD Ameritrade Trust President Skip Schweiss.

The firm works with more than 6,000 RIAs, and an innovative approach to the business via technology and other tools is paramount to the firm — as exemplified by the growing presence of Veo Village at its annual LINC conferences.

“We know the financial services industry can be complex by nature. But the way we talk about it doesn’t have to be,” Nally said.

“These days, you can imagine the future and then, before you know it, what once seemed impossible has become reality,” he explained. “We want to give independent RIAs the tools and capabilities they need to navigate a rapidly changing world, so that they may continue being drivers of disruptive change for the better.”

The firm has rolled out a series of analytical tools and dashboards for advisors through its CRM platform, Veo One, which includes an FA Insight benchmarking resource. “We’ve got big plans for big data,” Nally said at 2017 LINC.

Hockey, an early riser and bicyclist aficionado who includes Dalai Lama sayings on his Twitter feed, plays the role of visionary, deal maker and cheerleader for TD’s business, which have more than $1 trillion in assets. He sees technology as the way for the firm to grow and service its wide array of customers.

Because TD Ameritrade used to be an industry disrupter but now is an incumbent, “How can we innovate faster than the new firms?” he asked at 2018 LINC. His answer? “[Let’s] not, … be afraid to rest on our laurels. We must do more partnerships. One, two or three years from now, we should see blockchain vendors in the Veo Village.”

Although cautious about cryptocurrencies, he does see worth in the innovative technology, too. “[Bitcoin] is such a bubble. There is froth, and there are some bad actors. … It is a rage and will sort itself out over time. Winners will come out of it and losers, too,” Hockey explained. “[But] you cannot ignore the underlying technology.”

Schweiss, who in addition to serving as head of TD Trust is managing director of advocacy and industry affairs at TD Ameritrade Institutional, has been a keen watcher of the proposed fiduciary rule and its potential impact on advisors. He said last year that we are “going to see more changes in the broker-dealer world than in the RIA world. In fact, we’re seeing many more brokers — probably most who are a blend of commission and fee — accelerate their movement toward the fee-only world.”

Schweiss also draws attention to the trend of combining bionic and human advice: “Vanguard is proving that. It says, essentially: ‘We have this digital advice platform, but we also have certified financial planners that you can call for more specific guidance or more complicated challenges in your financial life.’ So, I think you’re going to see more of that.”

Mark Tibergien, the CEO of BNY Mellon’s Pershing Advisor Solutions and monthly contributor to this magazine, recently wrote about the importance of disciplined hiring practices, which can help organizations become an “employer of choice” in their market. He pointed to the current White House with its “34% turnover of staff within the first year of the administration.”

Tibergien then asked: “If this were your organization with this type of fact pattern, how would you address the problem of high turnover?” His instructional and timely probing, combined with thoughtful and practice advice, is required reading for advisors who want to elevate their game for the good of both clients and their businesses.

— Read the profiles of the 2018 IA 25 winners in the other five categories: