The Week of Conferences

I have a love/hate relationship with industry conferences.  In one sense, they get me out of the office for a couple days, but the days can get long.  Whether sitting in a conference room, listening to speakers all day, or shaking hands with vendors and participants, even a single day can lead to information overload.

On the other hand, one good handshake or one good speaker can make it all worthwhile.

Last week, I was fortunate to spend time at the FPA Philly Annual Symposium and the Gladstone, LLC annual conference, both of which turned out to be time well spent.

The FPA Symposium

The Philly FPA Symposium kicked off with Michael Kitces (if you haven’t checked out his blog, you should.  Check it out here) discussing the changing trends in Social Security.   The world of Social Security has recently changed, as the opportunity to start and suspend your benefits has passed and restricted application for spousal benefits is being phased out.  Kitces effectively reminded us that while several advanced planning techniques are being eliminated, planning for Social Security is still critical.  You should consider your age, your (and your spouse’s) benefits, and other income sources.  For more thoughts on Social Security, check out these articles.

Between meetings, I had the opportunity meet Josh Brown.  Josh was one of the first advisors into the foray when it comes to blogging about the financial services industry (check him out at  Josh was cool enough to take some time and share his thoughts on what works and what doesn’t.  My one takeaway was simple – be you, be authentic!  This is something you’ll see immediately when you read his blog.

Gladstone, LLC

I spent Friday with Gladstone, LLC in Philadelphia.  Gladstone specializes in mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry.   With an aging demographic and changing industry regulations, the industry seems primed for a major change.  Much of this change, in my opinion, will come through a series of consolidations and/or sales of firms.  The Gladstone conference was all about what this may look like.

Particularly of interest to me was the business efficiencies panel, which was facilitated by Andrew Putterman and discussed what financial advisors and firms can do to make their process memorable, repeatable, and beneficial for all in involved.  I believe  Andrew is a true innovator in the business.  If all I got out of the day was a drip of his expertise, it was well worth it.

The second panel that struck a nerve was the seller’s panel.  Three advisors who transitioned their firms via a sale and/or merger shared their experience.  What surprised me most, in an hour-long panel discussion, was that valuation and sales price were barely discussed.  The factors that these highly successful firms were focused on during transitions were firm culture, employee satisfaction, client experience, transition strategy and brand.  As a potential buyer, this insight into finding the right deal – and the deal that works – was profound.

Feeling Energized

While I often have hesitation leaving the office to spend a few days conferencing, I always leave the conference energized.  Whether it’s an idea generated during a casual handshake between meetings or a new approach to business efficiency I can implement immediately, these conferences force me to evaluate where the business is today and where it’s going.   At the end of the day, this information and education both lead to a better experience for my clients.


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