If your financial advisor is out of the office, attending a conference, is that a good, bad or non-event for you? To be honest, this is not actually a question I’m frequently asked – at least not out loud. But I think it’s a subject worth exploring anyway.
Recently, I took time out of my busy schedule to attend a Dimensional Fund Advisors advanced advisor forum. On the flight home, as I was thinking through all that I’d learned and how I’d make good use of it … it hit me. There’s a big difference between the select educational events I attend each year, versus the stereotypical, all-expense-paid boondoggles associated with the financial industry.
When I attend an event, I pay my own way every time. That way, I’m not beholden to any “sponsor” trying to unduly influence my thought processes or the “mothership” (usually a large financial institution) attempting to reward/bribe me for achieving sales quotas at the expense of my clients’ highest interests.
Traveling on my own dime also forces me to be very choosy about the events I do attend. Before I’ll take on the time and expense involved, I must be convinced that the costs will pay off in the form of lasting value for my clients and my business.
So, when I do go, why do I attend and what do I hope to gain?
Here is an informal checklist I have developed before I commit to attending any industry related conference.
Will it help me remain informed?
First, there’s that “evidence” component in my evidence-based investment strategy. As described in my related post, “Never stop learning,” sometimes new evidence comes to light that may build on existing insights already understood. Because it can be challenging to differentiate robust new evidence from fleeting fads, it’s best to hear the analyses first-hand.
Can I learn anything from other attendees?
It’s also helpful to periodically meet, compare notes and share best business practices with fellow evidence-based advisers and service providers. I like the notion that I’m not delivering my advice in a self-imposed bubble.
Will it help me better serve my clients?
Since attending adviser events takes me away from the office, this is the most important determinant of all. I have to be confident I will return from an event with enhanced insights and additional ideas that will enhance the advice I provide.
Unless there is a strong “yes” for each question in my checklist … I will take a pass.