In our notice about possible changes to client fees that we sent last November, we purposefully used the term "investment" instead of "fee" wherever it was contextually appropriate. We were trying to communicate that we view our relationships with our clients as being much more than transactional; our clients invest their time and money with and in us with the expectation of better financial outcomes.
Extending the analogy just a bit further, it is our responsibility to make the most of our clients’ investment in their relationship with Woodward Financial Advisors to improve our abilities to help and serve them, as well as to give periodic updates as to what we are doing, just like a publically traded company.
Along those lines, I wanted to provide a quick rundown of the TD Ameritrade National conference that Jim and I recently attended. Conferences serve multiple purposes: they give us a chance to hear from industry leaders on cutting edge planning techniques, investment ideas, and technology; talk to current and prospective vendors as to the best way to make use of their offerings; and network with other planners we respect to get a sense of what other folks are seeing and doing.
This conference was a great success on all fronts. TD Ameritrade has some fantastic technology that will be coming online in the next few months that should dramatically improve how we rebalance investment portfolios for TD-based clients, potentially reducing what is currently a month-long project into something that takes just a couple of hours. All that saved time can be redirected in a way that is much more fun and rewarding, namely talking to our clients and thinking about their broader planning needs and issues.
We also learned about some technology that should reduce the time it takes to fill out, submit and process account paperwork, making use of improvements in electronic document preparation and e-signatures. Opening an account or transferring assets won't have to feel like you're signing as many pieces of paper as when you buy a house! More on that soon...
We had the chance to spend time with the programmer of our financial planning software, who shared with us some very exciting developments that could be coming online in the next 60-90 days. If all works as promised, clients could have on-demand online access to their financial plans, complete with real-time updates of account balances and the ability to tinker with spending goals and assumptions.
We attended sessions on Social Security, helping reduce or avoid fraud (e.g., identity theft or fraudulent withdrawal request), and client communication. Additionally, we talked to representatives from a number of investment companies about their various funds and strategies. Many of those conversations won't result in action on our part or a departure from our investment philosophy, but it's important that we remain intellectually open and curious and that we frequently challenge our assumptions.
Lastly, we were privileged to hear some amazing speakers. TD Ameritrade has consistently been able to bring in high profile political figures, and this year was no different. 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered the opening keynote speech, and a panel made up of NPR’s Mara Liasson, commentator George Will and Fox News contributor Juan Williams shared their thoughts on the current political landscape.
Professional champion and Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Leonard might not have delivered the most stirring or original inspirational speech, but the clips from his athletic career that accompanied his talk confirmed in our minds that we made the right decision to become financial planners and not professional boxers!
But the highlight of the week might have been visionary leadership expert Simon Sinek, whose message transcended financial planning and had broad applications. Sinek – author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and whose 2010 TED talk on the subject matter of his book is the 7th most downloaded TEDTalk video of all time – spoke about better ways to structure work environments to make people feel trusted, safe and empowered, breaking it down into how certain things that we do release powerful chemicals in our brain that ultimately control our actions.
I took away two great quotes/nuggets. The first was in response to people claiming to be great multi-tasters, to which Sinek said, "You are not great at multitasking. You are great at getting distracted."
The second had to do with the perks associated with positions of power or responsibility. Sinek said that from an evolutionary standpoint, we are happy to defer to powerful people and give them recognition and benefits that we don't allow for others, provided they don't break the social contract of trust that's implied. Once that's broken, we look on people as being overly entitled and greedy. He also said that the afforded perks belong to the POSITION, not to the PERSON, telling a great story about a high ranking government official who was feted at a conference one year but relegated to pouring his own coffee into a styrofoam cup the next year after he'd retired. That official recognized that the chauffeured service and ceramic cup he enjoyed the previous year were really for his position/office, not for him personally. This is a great and grounding message for all of us, particularly folks in high level jobs that are nearing retirement
All in all, Jim and I came back from the conference excited about what we learned and ready to start implementing some new things over the upcoming months. We will keep clients up to speed with the various technology updates as they roll out.