What to Watch for at #SchwabIMPACT this Week

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A huge portion of the RIA community will be in Denver this week for the annual IMPACT® conference hosted by Schwab Advisor Services. This year’s event promises to host approximately 2,000 advisors along with representatives from 300 exhibiting firms, sponsors and expert speakers – perhaps the largest turnout ever for a conference hosted by the industry’s largest custodian.

I’ll be in attendance this year, specifically to serve as a panelist for the Growing Your Business with Social Media panel taking place on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. Alongside representatives from Schwab Advisor Services, Hearsay Social and LinkedIn, I’ll get the chance to talk shop about the innovations in how RIA firms communicate and market their firms, with the focus squarely on the social media tools that have now taken the rightful place alongside more traditional marketing efforts used by advisory firms. While I am sure that there will be plenty to write home about covered in that session, I’ve got my eyes on some other issues.

Here’s the rundown:

1)      Will the Robo Rumble take Center Stage? In the weeks leading up to its big shindig, Schwab announced that it was rolling out its own entry to the robo-advisor arena. Considered by many as being a more vanilla offering, it nonetheless caught the industry’s attention with its arrival.  Given that Schwab recognizes three firms every year with its IMPACT awards for various contributions and trend-setting efforts, is this the year that one of the robo-advisory firms is celebrated on stage? Or, will an innovative firm like United Capital take home some hardware for its efforts to marry the best of technology and gamification with the value of working with a seasoned financial advisor?

2)      Post Mid-Term Election Pulpit Time. The fact that, in the immediate days after the mid-term elections, Schwab chose to have former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and President Obama’s immediate predecessor George W. Bush take the stage says a lot about what they think is important in the mind’s eye of their advisor audience. Bernanke, in the short time since he gave up his position, has been applauded for what looks to be stellar stewardship of our nation’s monetary and fiscal policy during some grave times for our nation’s economy. With six years since his Presidency ended, Bush will address the crowd in a late afternoon keynote on Thursday. With the GOP expected to retake the Senate, as well as widen its hold on the House, the timing could be ripe for Bush to assert what might be some key economic issues that the Republican party might zero in on ahead of the 2016 Presidential election that could feature none other than W’s younger brother Jeb.

 3)      What deals will be born? Make no mistake. The RIA acquisition game is alive and well. A large gathering like IMPACT creates a unique forum for the buyers to browse the market to see who is for sale. Likewise, a power player custodian like Schwab has it in its best interest to facilitate marriages that keep the larger RIA firms aligned with them. With stock markets near their all-time high and competition fierce for those quality firms that are willing to merge or sell, there is plenty of financial incentive for those on the fence to make a move. A gathering of 2,000 industry peers only serves to make more of those conversations happen.

 4)      How many firms have aligned their marketing to meet the demands of the 2015 investor? Many of the workshops are covering best practices of growing firms, social media, PR, mobile marketing and more. The annual conference is a good chance to check up to see which firms have embraced the digital strategies that innovation has afforded. At the same time, advisors visit with each other about what’s working and what has failed to connect. The firms that recognize that their marketing and communications require a deeper level of integration than ever before – and that there are more tools than ever to help execute this integration – are the ones best positioned to succeed in engaging their future customers.

I’ll be tweeting from the conference under my @JoeAnthony handle using the #SchwabIMPACT hashtag. If you are attending and want to connect, message me on Twitter or at JoeA@GregoryFCA.com