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Top Takeaways From Commonwealth's National Event

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Photo Illustration by Chris Nicholls; Source Photos: Wil Stewart and Jeremy Bishop

One month after going to the inaugural Wealth/Stack conference in Phoenix and the 25th-annual Women’s Symposium hosted by Raymond James in Orlando, I attended Commonwealth Financial Network’s 40th-yearly national conference in Denver, along with about 2,000 other individuals.

There was a great pre-event for women advisors at which I spoke with several about their business models. Many work with family members, for instance, and some had moved to Commonwealth over the past year or so.

There are many seasoned veterans, but lots of next-gen advisors, too. I was particularly moved by one advisor who said she decided to go into the business after seeing her hard-working family members struggle with a lack of financial resources.

During the opening general session, Commonwealth founder and Chairman Joe Deitch spoke about “where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.” He shared lessons learned over the past 40 years, like the need to “find the fantastic [people] and make them want to stay” and “listen, explore [and] arrive at clear consensus.” Overall, he reflected, “It’s not about the money; we trade the money for what’s important.”

Deitch also brought inspirational thinkers to the stage, like Elizabeth Dunn, professor and co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending,” who described the satisfaction of giving to others.

There were also talks by Juan Enriquez, a life-sciences entrepreneur and co-author of “Evolving Ourselves: Redesigning the Future of Humanity — One Gene at a Time,” Beau Lotto, head of Acoustigram and the Lab of Misfits, who spoke on the “Power of Awe” and neuroscience in combination with a performance by a member of the Cirque du Soleil troupe; and Baratunde Thurston, a comedian, writer and cultural critic, who urged attendees to reimagine the world, cast aside racism and “change the story.”

These “big picture” speeches certainly got conference guests talking and thinking about large themes beyond the advisory world. Some told me they found the genome trends highlighted by Enriquez optimistic about the future. Others, though, were terrified by their implications.

After all these “heavy” presentations, I was pleased to talk with a few advisors about how their practices partner with or integrate CPAs into the business. They opened my eyes to yet another important direction for the industry, which I greatly appreciate.

Speaking of appreciation, the industry shared a great deal of it — along with shock and sadness — after hearing about the tragic death of Envestnet founder, Chairman & CEO Jud Bergman, 62. Popular blogger Michael Kitces tweeted: “I’m just stunned. What a tragedy … You will be missed, Jud … .”

Riskalyze Chair Lori Hardwick summarized his professional life as follows: “Jud Bergman was a visionary and trailblazer whose impact is seen and felt in every facet of the wealth-management community. He inspired one of the most influential and successful fintech platforms to date because he wasn’t afraid to imagine what could be.”

In an interview two years ago, Bergman said the intelligent use of technology lets advisors “do what only they can do: solve complex psychological problems and deliver wisdom on sophisticated matters.” The advisory, fintech and financial-services community certainly will miss the incredible wisdom he contributed during his lifetime.


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