Editor’s note: Every year since 2012, financial advisor and industry influential Michael Kitces has published a list of “best conferences” for advisor consideration. This guest post is adapted from Kitces’ blog, Nerd’s Eye View and select content republished here with author’s permission. To read the entire article with all of Kitces’ recommendations for conferences to consider in 2020, click here. For Kitces’ Master List of all prospective conferences for financial advisors and the FinTech vendors trying to reach them click here.
It was Benjamin Franklin who once famously quipped “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. The caveat, however, is that like any investment, it’s still important to do your due diligence in researching whether any particular allocation of dollars will be a good investment. And with the proliferation of financial advisor conferences in recent years, it has become more and more difficult to figure out which events are most likely to actually provide a good “Return On Investment” (ROI) in fruitful knowledge that advances your success as an advisor. Even if it often takes just one good takeaway from a conference that can be implemented to make the whole trip worthwhile.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that advisory firms themselves are evolving in an ever-wider range of directions, with small, mid-sized, and large firms, independents versus employee advisors, RIAs versus broker-dealers, and an ever-growing range of niche specializations… which means an objectively ‘good’ conference may be the absolute ‘best’ conference for one advisory firm (or one advisor within a firm)… yet be totally irrelevant for another.
As someone that has been speaking at nearly 70 conferences a year for almost a decade myself, I’ve seen the good and bad of our various industry events, which are spread across membership associations, broker/dealers, insurance companies, RIA custodians, product manufacturers, trade publications, private events, and more. And as a result, I am often asked for my own suggestions of what, really, are the industry’s ‘best’ conferences to attend.
Accordingly, back in 2012, I started to craft my own annual list of ’best-in-class’ top conferences or financial advisors in various categories (to allow advisors to match the available conference specialties to their own needs), and have updated it every year since, in what has become one of our most popular annual articles.
Here is my most recent assessment of T3:
The Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference is the largest of its kind – an event solely focused on technology solutions specifically for financial advisors and wealth management firms that predates, by more than 10 years, the rise of the now-popular “FinTech” and “WealthTech” categories.
Functionally, though, the T3 conference operates less as a “conference” and more as a “trade show’”– an exhibition-style event where advisor technology companies come to demo their latest wares and new or coming features. As a result, while there is an agenda of conference sessions, many are simply designed to allow companies to showcase their software… which isn’t seen as “selling out” the session to a sponsor, but the whole point of the trade-show-style session in the first place. Accordingly, the event is very well covered by the industry media and independent consultants, and many companies time major software or product releases to announce at T3.
In practice, the T3 advisor conference should be viewed as the best way to take in the entire landscape of the advisor technology ecosystem. Which is valuable both for financial advisors who are ‘shopping’ for new solutions – especially those making a transition to a more independent model, and trying to understand what may be available to them – as well as those who simply want to stay cutting edge and see the latest tools coming to the market. Many advisory firms simply come back to the T3 Advisor conference every 2-3 years just to stay abreast of what’s changing… while larger enterprises may attend annually in search of whatever new solutions are available to bring a little more efficiency to a more scaled advice firm.
Notably for tech vendors, though, the T3 conference is still not a “huge” buying audience for companies looking for new users (as almost half of the 600+ attendance is typically fellow software vendors, media, and industry consultants), and those looking for big “deal” opportunities would be better served by the T3 Enterprise conference in the fall (which specifically targets large broker/dealer and RIA enterprise decision-makers), or showcasing their newest solutions in the XYPN LIVE FinTech Competition and its next-generation-advisor exhibit hall.
Nonetheless, the T3 conference is valuable for most vendors, both for the opportunity to gain at least some advisor users and introductions to some enterprise buyers who show up at the Advisor conference in addition to the fall Enterprise version of the event… and it also simply provides a chance to network with industry media and advisor tech pundits for visibility, and to establish relationships with other tech vendors that might be future integration partners (or even future strategic acquirers!).
Who Should Attend: Independent advisory firm owners (or those looking to go independent), and/or staff members in the advisory firm responsible for technology decisions. Companies looking to provide tech solutions for advisors should also aim to attend, both to showcase their solutions to the media and consultants, and also for networking opportunities (and perhaps a few advisor user sign-ups as well).
Details: February 17 – 20, 2020 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina in San Diego, CA.
Cost: $799 for advance registration ending February 20, 2020. Nerd’s Eye View readers get an additional $100 off with KITCES discount code!
Conference Website: www.TechnologyToolsForToday.com