While some visitors to Washington find themselves facing hostility during their public appearances, TD Ameritrade President and CEO Tim Hockey spoke to a friendly crowd late Wednesday at the yearly conference of the Security Traders Association.
Before a crowd of more than 500 financial professionals, the executive joked about his Canadian upbringing and what it’s like for his kids to play sports. He often hears, “What kind of idiot parent would put the name of the sport on the back of their jersey?!”
Speaking on opening day for the Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals, Hockey fielded questions from Sandler O’Neill Principal Richard Repetto, CFA. “We call him the Tim Cook of the brokerage business,” Repetto said.
The label is arguably well deserved. Hockey spoke at the Washington event in between two announcements affecting the firm’s 11 million retail accounts, $1.2 trillion in assets and its custodial operations for 6,000 RIAs.
Early Wednesday, TD Ameritrade made an investment in ErisX, a platform that combines a derivatives exchange and clearing group for digital-asset futures and spot contracts. On Thursday, it rolled out a financial education platform for investors based on artificial intelligence that aims to work a bit like the personalized recommendations on Amazon and Netflix.
“My job as CEO is to be a decision engine, as you have folks come to you about innovation” and other topics. “You do not write reports, but you make many decisions and strive to make the best ones,” Hockey explained.
“You need frameworks and the best ways to look at business, generally speaking, and to learn from the past and from other industries,” he added.
Since becoming head of the firm two years ago, the executive has worked to integrate information from experts and other parts of the wealth management and financial services industry.
The results? Powerful partners.
TD Ameritrade clients started trading stocks and ETFs using Facebook Messenger about a year ago and on Twitter earlier this year. They also can use the Mobile Trader App on Apple and Android.
Driving TD Ameritrade’s partnerships, Hockey says, is the premise that “our clients are already there … so we should go there, too. It’s essential and a no-brainer.”
Bringing investors such tools doesn’t happen overnight. “We start at the small stage, build the relationships, and then it adds up to more and more.”
By working with Apple on chat functions, for instance, the firm is working “at their speed, and we can emphasize the client experience.” Plus, having multiple partners and projects means “we are not betting the firm on any one of these.”
As he set out to transform the organization in 2016, Hockey spent months asking employees and others questions about the firm. He also asked the key question: How can we best complete — on price, on products or on the client experience (a la Ritz-Carlton).
“We said it is all about client experience,” the executive said. “That is what stands tallest, and … then we looked at how to target that, such as having the best tools and education for clients … and using technology as an enabler. That’s my purview.”
CEOs have to focus on “broader innovation and not just tech events,” he explained.
Events and great ideas are not enough to build a successful tech-based organization. “You have to execute on the ideas,” Hockey explained. In other words, you have to turn the ideas into tangible and popular products and services.
“We gotta move from cool events and ideas to faster throughput, higher funding” and related measures, Hockey said.
While many firms struggle with innovation as they grow in size, like Kodak and Blockbuster, the firm Hockey leads works to overcome this challenge by telling team members that it is acceptable to take risks and to fail.
“Part of my job is more a social issue,” he explained. That involves “not just saying ‘run faster,’ but showing them how to do it.
“I am building a more risk-tolerant culture … than what we had when I started out,” Hockey said, noting that he’s just a few years into what is at least a decade-long effort.
— Check out Tech Integration Takes Main Stage on ThinkAdvisor.