Picking a REP. Ten To Watch list is an exercise in fortune-telling—especially in an election year. Which industry developments, business models, investing pros and legislative or regulatory efforts will have the biggest impact over the next 12 months? We can’t say for sure, but our daily coverage of the industry and constant conversations with the most plugged-in people in wealth management allow us to make some educated guesses. Or so we would argue.

One issue that won’t go away: social media. You may have heard of it, about Web 2.0. Or whatever. But it remains a major force for change whose effects on businesses are unknown (or overblown?). Online advice is a big innovation that seems likely to stick. We wonder: Will online services compete for your flesh-and-blood clients outright? Or will it evolve into a partnership? And then there are the key regulatory matters to worry about: the fiduciary standard and the subject of an SRO. This year, we also cast about for smaller businesses that are growing quickly, new business approaches to solving old problems, oh, and backed by private equity groups with capital to get the party started. For each idea, we picked one individual who, we think, will have a big impact on the business in the coming months.  

Some of the names are easily recognized, others less so. Charles Goldman, for instance, ought to sound familiar. Goldman has been a key player in the RIA industry for over a decade, with executive leadership positions at both Fidelity and Charles Schwab. Now, he is helping to launch an ambitious new project that could change the way financial advisors market themselves to clients: Advizent. 

Many of those on our list will find their expertise challenged in the months to come. Gerald Buetow, chief investment officer of Innealta Capital, made some great calls on the market back in 2008 and has made his investors a lot of money. He’s bearish again today, but how will that play out? Donald Marron, chairman of venture capital firm Lightyear Capital, has made some smart investments in the b/d business in the past few years. Can Lightyear continue to find smart acquisitions in a market with slim pickings? Will Phyllis Borzi at the U.S. Labor Department overcome the fierce opposition to her ERISA fiduciary proposal?

View our gallery to find out more about who you should keep an eye on, and how last year’s picks did.