LEARN, DISCUSS, DEVELOP was the promise of NICSA’s Strategic Leadership Conference (SLF) recently held in Hollywood, Florida. The Boston Financial, DST, and State Street enterprise was well represented at the conference. SLF included over 300 financial services industry leaders and over 15 sessions on industry hot topics, such as DOL, Proxy, and sales enablement to name a few.
So, what did we learn, discuss and develop at SLF?
We learned about the Middle East conflict from retired Marine Corps General John Allen. Many of us learned more about the conflict in those 60 minutes than over the past five years. We learned that the United States should be “concerned” but not “afraid” of global terrorism. We learned how important focus, integrity, trust, and credibility are in a true leader – both in the battlefield and in business. I walked away proud knowing that we have leaders in our country such as Allen.
From Suzanne Duncan, global head of research of the State Street Center for Applied Research (CAR), we learned CAR’s research has uncovered folklore in finance. Part of the folklore stems from the industry’s quest for alpha. The pursuit can skew investment decisions and behaviors as well as the allocation of capital toward it.
Investors in turn have become hyper focused on short-term goals and success, which runs counter to their long-term investment goals. This can lead to a mistrust of professional advice, overconfidence in their investing ability, and a belief they can do it on their own.
Duncan’s C-Suite panel acknowledged and recognized the importance of trust. All pointed to examples of how the industry has made good progress on addressing this folklore, while acknowledging that there is still more work to be done.
With 12 breakout sessions and four roundtables, discussions were held on leading practices ranging from intermediary oversight programs to overcoming distribution data challenges. Lee Kowarski, my colleague at DST kasina, highlighted some of the key takeaways on the sales enablement front that emerged from these discussions in his post.
Nick Horvath of DST led a panel discussion on the impacts of the DOL Fiduciary rule. This pending regulation has the potential to alter the core business model of our industry. It’s been reported that over 3K comment letters were submitted. So it wasn’t a surprise that it was standing room only for this panel.
The panelists, representing retirement, brokerage and asset management, noted they have invested significant time and resources in cross-functional teams planning for likely scenarios. Best Interest Contracts (BICs), orphan accounts, IRA rollovers, and the existing commission business and fee-based programs were the focus of the discussion.
Cindi Boudreau moderated a panel on the impact of proxy advisory firms. With speakers from Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), I found the panel highly insightful. Cindi will be sharing her insights in Perspectives. Look for her upcoming post.
One of the reasons we attend conferences is the networking opportunities. This year, SLF did not disappoint. Close to 40 percent of the attendees polled were attending the SLF for the first time. It was great to interact with these new faces. The conference mobile app fostered a lot of collaboration and engagement. And even some friendly online competition through the app’s gamification features.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from SLF was the new relationships and friendships I formed. And the best part – the conversations and connections created are still continuing.