Bringing the RIA, regulatory and political heat to South Beach

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In a few days’ time, leaders within the periphery of the RIA and broader financial services sector will gather in Miami for the 2015 MarketCounsel Summit to hear some of the best in the business offer thoughts and opinions on trends shaping our industry.

This will be my third trip to the MarketCounsel Summit, which has drawn an increasingly impressive lineup of speakers over the years. In 2014, conference organizer Brian Hamburger put together a notably exciting agenda. The highlight was undoubtedly a showdown between billionaire investor Mark Cuban and former SEC Chairman Chris Cox.

As we all know, Cox ran the SEC when Cuban was under scrutiny for alleged insider trading violations in a highly publicized case involving millions of dollars. Cox and the SEC eventually lost their case against Cuban, but the two shared the stage in a surprisingly (mostly) amicable fashion. Both criticized the government agency’s misallocation of resources when it came to preventing securities crime.

This year, while some names might carry slightly less weight in the media, there will be plenty of excitement if you know where to look. My sights are set on the dual presentation of Karl Rove and David Plouffe, both widely known for their work alongside former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, respectively.

The two will focus on the future of independent wealth management in the context of the evolving U.S. political landscape, according to a MarketCounsel press release. Hey, it’s an election year, and what would an event representing a trillion-dollar industry be without some political fireworks? The campaigns of each 2016 presidential hopeful have been widely publicized by the media, but it can be difficult to discern the potential impact a given candidate might have on our industry.

Another area of uncertainty, and a topic I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about, is the potential implementation of a uniform fiduciary standard applicable to all broker/dealers, financial advisors and robo-advisors. The future of this highly-debated topic currently lies in the hands of lawmakers, and the true outcome is anybody’s guess but we should expect the law to side with the individual investor. Also, how conference speakers and attendees perceive the threat of robo-advisors to the traditional wealth management formula is always on my radar.

Above all else, I’ll be looking to see how attendees are positioning themselves to communicate their stories to varying constituents, stakeholders and, most importantly, clients. Not much time on the main stage will be devoted to this, but you can learn a lot through conversations with the movers and shakers in attendance.

While the keynote speakers and headline issues change year-to-year, one theme remains constant: the wealth management industry is always changing. Whether it be new laws, regulation or competitive pressures, firms are forced to navigate these changes at a breakneck pace. But with each ebb and flow of the industry’s tide comes an opportunity to tell a story and integrate a particular company into the news cycle, whether it be industry, local or national media. Why should attendees care? Because your business and reputation are on the line.

I’ll be there to get a sense for how heavily firms are planning to invest in their communication and PR campaigns in 2016 and beyond. It is impossible to predict the outcomes of the issues discussed above. As storylines continue to unfold, it has never been more important to have an ear to the ground, a clear message ready to share and an ability to pivot as law, the markets, investor perceptions, needs and wants, all change.