14 February 2019

The 2019 TD Ameritrade Institutional Conference

By Timothy D. Welsh

After stewing on it for several years, Tim Hockey, CEO of TD Ameritrade, boldly announced that the firm would not compete directly with RIAs for high net worth clients at the recently held TDA LINC conference in San Diego, CA.

Hockey, speaking about the firm’s corporate strategy for serving investors, had waffled in the past on whether or not TDA’s retail strategy would continue to move upmarket, but in his keynote, he was definitive. “I feel like we’ve been ambiguous about this in the past,” Hockey told attendees. “Our strategy is clear: We will not compete with you.” 

This corporate message from the #3 custodian was welcomed by the thousands of the industry’s leading RIAs who gathered together for several days to hear the latest from TD Ameritrade, network with their peers and dig into the trending technology developments that always emanate from LINC.

Black Diamond was on hand to demonstrate the latest in the Black Diamond Wealth Platform, where a lot of interest was focused on the Client Experience in BD3. Industry technologist and video blogger Bill Winterberg produced a special segment from LINC that featured BD3’s new Client Experience Timeline. Winterberg noted how intuitive the user interface was as well as how useful it will be for clients to keep in touch with their advisor through notifications and alerts, along with some slick integrations of risk profiling and financial planning analyses, right into the client’s timeline.  

TDA LINC is known for dozens and dozens of practice management sessions that feature top advisors providing their best ideas and results from their successes in their businesses. Continuing this theme was a capacity filled session entitled, “The Best Tech Decisions Advisors Have Ever Made.” Featuring top advisor Angela Bender, CFP®, Managing Partner for AMJ Financial Wealth Management, Bender relayed her experience with the Black Diamond Wealth Platform in driving efficiencies, productivity and the ability to delight clients with a rich, digital experience.

Other news out of the conference included the results of the first annual “Innovation Quest,” a crowd-sourced fintech competition sponsored by TDA to generate ideas to move the RIA industry forward. Three companies pitched their ideas live on stage in front of a celebrity panel of judges, including real life Shark Tank “Shark” Robert Herjavec. Taking home the top prize of $50,000 was Derek Wesley, owner of iMar Learning Solutions for his Plan-it financial literacy product that teaches the importance of financial planning to anyone, even children, to get them started on the right financial path.

On the marketing front, top advisors gathered on a well-received panel of large, successful RIAs who shared their best ideas on how to organically grow their firms.  A key takeaway was to start with a strategy and plan, prior to blazing away with various marketing tactics, the panel all agreed.  As part of that, leveraging marketing automation tools can be a great way to gain efficiencies in generating new prospects, however, there is no need to spend a lot of money on the big names, when there are many “freemium” offerings that can be used to accomplish similar results for smaller firms.

Despite the very bullish tone of the conference, there were several sessions that pointed out potential trouble areas looming on the horizon.  TDA consultant Eliza DePardo shared some key data points from her research that showed despite increasing revenues, advisor profit margins have actually been shrinking. This is due to advisors continuing to bundle more and more services into their offering under their standard AUM basis point fee. 

“For wealth managers, if you’re bundling a bunch of stuff under an asset-based fee, clients probably don’t think they’re paying you for all that advice,” she said. “Everything else you do for them kind of gets lost in the wash." Her advice? Better articulate those services and think about charging separately for those to protect profitability.

Of particular note for the TDA LINC conference is its gathering of just about the entire advisor technology community. Over 80 tech vendors, including Black Diamond, showcased their integrations with TDA’s Veo workstation in the massive “Veo Village” that was prominently featured in the exhibit areas.  TDA continues to lead the way in custodian-technology integration with their first to market approach of an open architecture API. Black Diamond has been an early adopter in working with TDA and is now available, tightly integrated into the new Veo One workstation.

Every year, TDA puts on a great show and this year was no exception by having the famous rock band Weezer close out the final night event.  To learn more about what went on at the 2019 TDA LINC conference, check out the many Tweets on the #NationalLINC hashtag on Twitter.