Financial advisors visiting the Windy City found themselves buffeted by the winds of change swirling around the financial markets and the advisory industry itself during the Schwab IMPACT 2012 conference in Chicago this week.
A frenetic stock market and a nail-biting countdown to the impending “fiscal cliff” that was fraught with high political drama served as the backdrop to the popular conference. The advisors’ world was hardly more tranquil. Many were taking calls from nervous clients worried about the fiscal cliff, while at the same time trying to make sense of the rapid evolution of their industry.
Speaker after speaker warned them to be prepared for major changes in their businesses, ranging from an upheaval in the competitive landscape, a demographic tidal wave about to impact both advisors and clients and technology changes that advisors can only ignore at their peril.
The transformative tone of the conference was set by keynote speakers Bernie Clark and Peter Diamandis. Clark, executive vice president of Schwab’s Advisor Services division, outlined a series of sweeping initiatives for 2013 and futurist Diamandis, chief executive of X Prize Foundation, cited a series of examples of “exponential” technology reshaping – or obliterating - one business after another.
And in the coming decade, Diamandis predicted, artificial intelligence will eventually “be in the fabric of everything we do and don’t notice and will transform everyone’s industry.”
Perhaps most unsettling for advisors was confronting a shifting competitive environment marked by new online entrants, stronger rival firms and unrelenting pressure to provide more services.