As someone who travels for a living, I am seeing firsthand the early stages of destruction that the coronavirus wrecking ball is having on the wealth management industry. So much so, that it may permanently change how business gets done in the future.
Why is that? For starters, wealth management has been, and always will be, a relationship business. Particularly when it comes to other people’s money, advisors want and need to do business with the individuals and companies they know and trust; and the best way to build that trust is in person.
Accordingly, there has been a bull market for the last 30-plus years in the conference, meeting and event circuit that seasonally peaks in the spring and fall every year.
Seems like just about every association, asset manager, custodian, broker-dealer, technology platform, trade publication and the like has at least one, two, three or more in-person conferences a year, fueled by an ever-growing ecosystem that supports advisors, who are anxious to get in front of these influential decision makers.
At the same time, advisors love to go to conferences to learn more about how to improve their businesses, stay on top of trends and (most of all) network with peers, industry experts and executives from companies they rely on to deliver advice to their clients.
We know this to be true, because alternative venues like online and virtual conferences, despite their lower costs and no-travel convenience, have never taken hold in the wealth space. In-person events are “in” — expanding and thriving in sync with the growth and success of independent advisors.
Times Are a Changin’
What happens when a true black-swan event, such as the coronavirus, invades the lucrative conference industry? The early answer, so far, is for organizers to start to postpone and even cancel events due to the increasingly dominant news of the highly contagious pathogen’s dangers and, of course, the related stay-at-home orders.
The list of cancellations keeps growing and is going deeper into the year.