T3 Day 3 – February 18, 2012

Despite the many predictions that the crowd would thin on a Saturday morning here on the last day of the Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference after a big night of revelry, advisors, hungry for more technology content, packed the opening keynote speeches.

Leading off the morning were two very well received sessions hosted by Laserfiche document imaging and Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

Laserfiche highlighted how agile enterprise content management (ECM) could be used as “integrative middleware” to combine several applications such as CRM, forms filling software and portfolio management systems to create a “composite application” to automate a business process, such as compliance, opening new accounts or publishing quarterly reports online. The agile ECM framework is designed to make the most of existing systems an advisor has by using Laserfiche to combine various apps together through workflow and content routing tools.

Dan Skiles, EVP of Shareholders Service Group, a fast growing RIA custodian, presented how his firm was using Laserfiche agile ECM technology to automate and streamline compliance for his organization. He related his recent experience of going through a FINRA audit, offering solid advice to keep policies and procedures updated and to reflect what you actually do in the compliance arena. “If you say you do something in your policies, you better do it in your business processes or you will definitely raise eyebrows from the auditors.”

Skiles also discussed the growing trend of mobile applications and how advisor’s clients were rapidly adopting these devices in their everyday lives, including the fact that over 200 million iPhone’s Samsung Galaxies and iPads were sold in 2011 alone. “As mobile apps go mainstream, you need to ask yourself such questions as how do your communications appear on these devices and what is the client experience?”

Fidelity, long known as a technology powerhouse, followed up the Laserfiche presentation with a panel discussion focused on the mobile trend. Stephen Barwikowski, Research Analyst for Fidelity Asset Management and Al Lee, senior project manager for Fidelity’s Applied Technology group provided insight into mobile technology and cloud computing. “It’s all about mobile convergence,” noted Barwikowski as he described what’s behind the innovation in consumer technology. “Companies are innovating to benefit consumers and we think that consumer innovation will be what drives business applications going forward,” commented Lee. As part of Fidelity’s applied technology initiative, Fidelity was test-driving a robot that was roaming the conference halls. Lee controlled the robot remotely and was able to have conversations with attendees in the Fidelity booth, in the trade show halls, as well as in the various sessions from one location. “What this is all about is the ability to project yourself and be able to be in multiple places at the same time,” noted Lee. Definitely an attention getter, the Fidelity robot from VGo was clearly one of the cooler aspects of the show.

A panel session held on the last day pretty much summed up a lot of the themes in this year’s T3 conference. “The Return on Investment of Advisor Technology” featured executives and consultants from Laserfiche, Black Diamond and Junxure highlighting industry research that showed the tremendous leverage that exists in advisors businesses through technology. “With CRM and Client Portal technology, advisors can save upwards of $30,000 per year, just in automating client reporting,” said Greg Friedman, President and founder of Junxure. “Additionally, firms that use this type of technology can handle twice as many clients and three times the assets vs. those firms who don’t.”

Rounding out the day were multiple panel discussions and the final hours in the exhibit hall. Vendors were busy raffling off iPads, plasma TVs and free software to the many advisors who had stopped by their booths as well as attempting to make some last minute sales.

As T3 was winding down, the shiny exhibit hall was closed and released a steady stream of road-warrior software executives as they pulled their dismantled and packaged up booths to the fedex station, destined for the next industry trade show and conference.

Heading to the DFW airport and the two-plane journey back home to San Francisco, I was physically exhausted, yet mentally and emotionally fired up for the independent advisor industry after 3 days of non-stop technology content, networking and parties. There is incredible innovation happening in this once sleepy corner of the financial services industry and commensurate with the growth of the independent advisor is the growing recognition that these tiny, yet nimble RIAs are now driving the bus and assuming leadership in the financial advisory industry.

As the rains splashed down on the DFW tarmac, I started to organize the dozens of business cards I had gathered into an action plan for the next several weeks and to relish the new friends and contacts I had made over the last 72 hours.

The 7th annual T3 conference was a rousing success. Many thanks and congratulations to the T3 organizers for a valuable and rewarding experience.

Timothy D. Welsh, CFP® is President and founder of Nexus Strategy, LLC, a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry, and can be reached at tim@nexus-strategy.com or on Twitter @NexusStrategy.