Marin Community Foundation
Best Conferences in 2016

The 12 Best Conferences For Financial Advisors To Choose From In 2016

Originally published by Kitces [link] on October 12, 2015

Attending at least one industry conference every year is crucial for financial advisors who want to keep their perspective on industry and practice management trends to improve their career or advisory firm…not to mention being an efficient means to getting required continuing education credits. Yet the overwhelming challenge for many advisors is figuring out which conference to attend, given so many to choose from, and that many are little more than a never-ending series of thinly-veiled product pitches by sponsors.

Given that I speak at upwards of 70 conferences myself every year, I’ve participated in virtually every major conference available for financial advisors, and am often asked for recommendations of which events I think are the best to attend. Of course, the reality is that what is “best” will vary from one advisor to the next, depending on the kind of job they have or advisory firm they run, and their own needs and experience level. So in 2012 I started to craft my own annual list of “best-in-class” conferences, based on my own travels and experience, divided into various categories so advisors could find the best conference to fit their needs.

And now, I’m excited to present my newest list of “Top Financial Advisor Conferences” for 2016, including several new categories like “Best Social Media/Blogging” and “Best for Young Advisors”. Of course, the reality is that the 2015 conference season isn’t even over yet, but with some of the best conferences getting underway as soon as January and February of next year, the early bird registrations for 2016 events are already closing soon!

So I hope you find this year’s list of conferences helpful as a guide in planning your own conference budget and schedule for 2016, and be certain to take advantage of the special discount codes that several conferences have offered for all of you Nerd’s Eye View readers!

(Events are listed in chronological order to facilitate planning and registration/early bird deadlines. Where available, Nerd’s Eye View reader discounts are highlighted in red.)

Best Estate Planning Conference: Heckerling Institute

While advanced technical conferences like the AICPA PFP event have some content for estate planning, as do high-net-worth-oriented wealth management conferences like IMCA Advanced Wealth Management, the Heckerling Institute (hosted by the University of Miami’s School of Law) is the event of the year when it comes to estate planning. The conference has an incredible history of cutting edge (sometimes even “bleeding edge”) estate planning content, and is celebrating its 50th(!) year anniversary in 2016.

The important thing to bear in mind about Heckerling, though, is that while it’s open to all who work with clients on estate planning issues (including financial advisors), it is an ‘attorney-centric’ conference (hosted within a law school), and is very technical. So if the thought of hearing speakers citing sections of the Internal Revenue Code citations and quoting from the latest Treasury Regulations while talk about the latest estate planning strategies isn’t appealing, this conference probably won’t be either. On the other hand, if you really want to hear the latest from the leading minds in estate planning – people like Jonathan Blattmachr to Howard Zaritsky, Gideon Rothchild, Steve Akers, Larry Brody, Paul Lee, Natalie Choate, and more – there’s no better place to go for creative new estate planning strategies (and the underlying tax code provisions to support them!).

It’s also worth noting that while the cutting edge of estate planning has historically been around estate tax planning strategies, this is less and less the case at Heckling now, given both the dramatic decline in taxable estates since the $5M exemption was made permanent, the permanence of spousal portability of the unused estate tax exemption, and the number of states that are recoupling or repealing their own state estate taxes. Accordingly, the cutting edge of Heckerling content now also issues areas like digital estate planning, international estate planning for clients who spend time overseas, and a broader range of Elder Law and Special Needs planning.

Who Should Attend: Financial planners who have a serious estate planning focus, either due to working with ultra-high-net-worth clients or because it’s a niche/specialized focus of their practice. And ideally, attendees should at a minimum have CFP certification (ideally additional advanced educational designations/degrees as well), or it may be hard to keep up with the technical sessions.

Details: January 11th – 15th at Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, FL

Cost: $1,060.

Conference Website: Heckerling Institute

Best Advanced Educational Conference: AICPA PFP

In a world where most large national conferences have struggled to maintain their attendance since the financial crisis, the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning (PFP) conference has more than doubled its pre-2008 peak, drawing upwards of 1,000 advisor attendees. And once you attend the AICPA PFP conference for the first time, the reason quickly becomes clear: this is the leading conference for advanced financial planning education.

With four dedicated tracks including Insurance/Risk Management, Wealth Management and Tax, Investment Management, and Retirement Planning (along with a fifth track for Practice Management and Technology), the AICPA’s conference is packed with educational content. And while the conference is not exclusive to CPAs – any financial planner who is serious about their craft is welcome to attend! – the conference’s roots in the CPA community, and the minimum bar that sets, helps to ensure that it contains the best advanced educational content (“beginners” should at a minimum go get their CFP marks first!).

And because the AICPA PFP conference is serious about education, the 2.5 day agenda is packed full with 25.5(!) CE credits, delivered in both 50-minute and 75-minute sessions to ensure speakers really have the time to delve into advanced topics. Similarly, you won’t see any lightweight sponsored sessions on the main AICPA agenda; even the 7AM breakfast sessions are all quality content across all five tracks, including topics like “Digital Estate Planning” and “Medicare Claiming Strategies” and “Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Couples”. And speakers for 2015 will include notables like David Blanchett and Wade Pfau on retirement planning, Bob Keebler and Ed Slott on tax strategies, Rob Arnott and Roger Ibbotson on investing; and for those who want to focus on the business too, practice management and advisor technology gurus like Angie Herbers, Bill Winterberg, and Joel Bruckenstein. (Yours truly will be speaking as well!)

So if you’re tired of “lightweight” conferences with low-quality sponsored sessions and content for novices, and are looking for something that will really advance your financial planning knowledge, this is the conference for you. Though notably, with keynote speakers including father-of-life-planning George Kinder, and Essentialism’s Greg McKeown, expect to find that all your limits are challenged, not just your technical knowledge!

Who Should Attend: Financial planners who already have their CFP marks (or a similar advanced educational designation), who are looking for a conference that really teaches them something new. This conference is appropriate for both advisory firm owners, and senior financial planners (or associate planners looking to move up!) who are trying to decide where to allocate their annual conference budget.

Details: January 18th – 20th at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV. Also available as a live virtual conference.

Cost: $1,125 for AICPA members ($1,425 for non-members). Early bird discount of $75 for those who register by December 4th. Additional $110 off for Nerd’s Eye View readers using theKITCESPFP discount code!

Conference Website: AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Conference


An honorable mention in the area of advanced educational content goes to the NAPFA National Conferences, which run in both the spring (May 17-20 in Phoenix, AZ) and the fall (October 11-14 in Arlington, VA). While NAPFA has been consistent in delivering quality content, though, its fee-only advisor community tends to be very close-knit and not always welcoming of outsiders; as a result, while NAPFA members may be very happy with the NAPFA annual conferences, non-NAPFA members (if not already interested in joining) will likely find the AICPA event more appealing (even as a non-CPA).

Best Advisor Technology Conference: Technology Tools For Today (T3) Advisor Conference

The recent rise of the robo-advisors has actually been part of a broader explosion of “FinTech” (financial technology) solutions across the broad spectrum of financial services, and when it comes to “Advisor FinTech” solutions the Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference has become the go-to event for advisors to see the latest and greatest.

Accordingly, this past year was one of the largest ever for the T3 conference, with over 600 people in attendance and dozens upon dozens of exhibitors, both “established” Advisor FinTech solutions in categories like CRM, financial planning software, portfolio accounting, and more, along with “new” FinTech solutions too (recent new entrants included companies like Pocket Risk for risk tolerance, IT outsourcing solutions, and digital estate planning software tools).

In fact, given the preeminence of the T3 conference, advisor technology solutions regularly time their major releases and updates to announce at T3 (last year featured announcements by eMoney of their new eMX Select platform, and Advicent announced their Narrator financial planning portal tools). And with the recent rise of Advisor FinTech, the 2016 conference is likely to be the place that a number of entirely new companies and providers debut their services as well; prior debuts at T3 have included CRM provider Wealthbox, advisor PFM dashboard WealthAccess, portfolio risk analytics tool RiXtrema, and more.

So for any financial advisors who are either looking for the latest cutting edge advisor technology tools, or simply those who want to understand the landscape of options to make a decision about replacing some old software, the T3 Advisor conference is the best one-stop shopping experience available today.

Notably, for advisor technology vendors, the T3 conference is also a good opportunity to both “check out” the competition, and to collaborate with them; connections established and relationships made at T3 have been responsible for a number of software integrations, and in fact many advisor tech companies attend T3 primarily for their own B2B vendor networking opportunities, with getting prospective advisors as users just a “bonus” outcome!

Who Should Attend: Advisory firm owners, or the firm’s staff member responsible for technology, and companies looking to provide technology solutions to advisors.

Details: February 10th – 12th at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Cost: $499. Early bird discount: $200 off if registered by October 16th. Nerd’s Eye View readers get an additional $100 off with T3KITCES100 discount code!

Conference Website: T3 Advisor Technology Conference


While not really targeted for individual advisors, two other advisor technology conferences worth noting are the T3 Enterprise conference (brought together by the same organizers as the T3 Advisor conference), and the TechLeaders conference. The key distinction of these two events is that they are targeted primarily to larger “enterprise” buyers of advisor technology – i.e., broker-dealers, along with some banks, insurance companies, and mega-RIAs – and most of the content is organized simply to give an “efficient” look at all the different technology solutions that might be of interest to large enterprises (and not necessarily a lot of other ‘educational’ sessions).

While individual financial advisors are able to register for either, for most the T3 Advisor conference is a better fit. However, if you’re operating within a larger firm and want to encourage your technology director or Chief Technology Officer to attend, T3 Enterprise or TechLeaders are viable options.

And for advisory technology companies trying to reach the large-firm enterprise market in the first place, TechLeaders and T3 Enterprise provide a good opportunity to make connections to key decision-makers (but be prepared for a somewhat competitive environment!).

In 2016, Techleaders will run April 18-19 in Dallas, and the T3 Enterprise conference will run sometime in November (location not yet announced, as the T3 Enterprise conference for the current 2015 year is still coming up in just a few weeks!).

Best Advanced Practitioner Conference: FPA Retreat

While there are a number of conferences focused on advanced financial planning content, there is no conference focused on the advanced financial planning practitioner the way that FPA Retreat is. The key distinction here is that FPA Retreat is not simply about financial planning technical knowledge; it’s also about the “softer” skills andpractice of financial planning, and how advisors can actually get better at delivering it. In other words, FPA Retreat is as much or more about the Art of financial planning than the Science.

Of course, this is a difficult mission for a conference to live up to, and from 2012 to 2014 the conference began to stumble, badly. But with a 2015 reinvigoration from co-chairs (and Retreat veterans) Marty Kurtz and Elizabeth Jetton, the FPA Retreat is once again the best conference for experienced advisors who are trying to take a step back and figure out what’s next, and how to continue to improve as a financial planning practitioner.

What’s also notable about the FPA Retreat conference is that, given its rich history, it draws an incredible group of practitioners into the event in the first place. As a long-standing attendee (2016 will be my 13th consecutive year!), this is the one conference I find myself most likely to miss sessions altogether, simply because I get caught up in a hallway conversation with another interesting financial planner and just lose track of time altogether!

Notably, the FPA Retreat is also a great place to get some insight about “what’s next” in pushing the envelope of the financial planning profession itself as well. Many major “cutting edge” developments in financial planning can be trace their roots or first discussions back to Retreat, from a panel discussion that reportedly helped to birth the Morningstar style boxes decades ago, to the emergence of life planning, to the NexGen young planner movement, and the now-growing adoption of mind mapping in financial planning.

Who Should Attend: Financial planners who have been working with clients for 5+ years (ideally 10+ years), who aren’t interested in more technical content but want to take their actual practice and delivery of financial planning to the next level. Or simply those experienced practitioners who are feeling a bit burned out, and looking for a recharge and some fresh inspiration.

Details: April 25th – 28th at the Wigwam Country Club in Phoenix, AZ

Cost: $1,349 for FPA members ($1,549 for non-members). $100 early bird discount expires March 6th.

Conference Website: FPA Retreat

Best Overall Financial Planning Conference: FPA NorCal

Every year, five of the northern California chapters of the Financial Planning Association band together to run the FPA “NorCal” conference, and coming up on its 44th(!) year NorCal may actually be the longest-running financial planning conference in existence. And thanks to its long-standing run, the committee that organizes the event has refined the process into what is hands-down the best executed financial planning conference around, where everything from the timing of the sessions to the food and coffee breaks run smoothly year after year.

And the NorCal conference committee does just as good of a job on the content selection itself. The NorCal conference doesn’t allow for any sponsored speakers. Instead, you’ll find 6 in-depth breakout tracks packed full of nationally recognized speakers on both technical topics and practice management (so much content it’s hard to choose just one, though fortunately all the tracks are recorded and made available to attendees!), along with the kind of general session speakers you would expect to see at a national conference (prior keynotes have included Michael Lewis of The Big Short, Sallie Krawcheck, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer, David Kelly of JP Morgan, Cam Marston of Generational Insights and The Gen-Savvy Financial Advisor, and more).

The NorCal conference itself is run every year at the beautiful Palace Hotel in the heart of San Francisco, and is always held the Tuesday and Wednesday after Memorial Day, making it a fantastic “destination conference” as well (spend the 3-day weekend in San Francisco, or up in Napa or Sonoma Valleys if you prefer, and then come down for the 2-day conference itself!). And the agenda itself is packed full enough to get almost all the CFP CE credits you need for the year (typically 11 – 13 hours of CE across two days).

The biggest caveat for NorCal, though, is that the conference size is limited and it does sell out every year with a registration cap of 500. So if you’re thinking about going, don’t wait too long to register!

Who Should Attend: Any financial planner looking for quality content and a well-run conference in a great destination! If you’re just going to go to one “national” conference this year and you’re not sure what to attend, you can’t go wrong with FPA NorCal!

Details: May 31st – June 1st at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA.

Cost: Not yet announced, but last year was $789 for FPA members ($989 for non-members), with a $100 “early bird” discount in March and a $50 “advance” discount in April.

Conference Website: FPA NorCal

Best Investment Management Conference: Morningstar

When it comes to picking an investment management conference as a financial advisor, it’s challenging to find the ‘right’ content that’s really relevant. If you’re not rolling up your sleeves in front of a Bloomberg terminal and doing the buying and selling of individual securities yourself, premier investment events like the CFA Institute annual conference just don’t make sense. And of course, the reality is that as financial advisors, most of us are implementing investment products and strategies for clients (we don’t build the products ourselves). Yet going to a conference that’s just focused around investment products you might use with clients typically turns into nothing more than a never-ending stream of low-quality non-educational product pitches from investment companies (e.g., virtually any “alts” conference out there right now).

Yet fortunately, the Morningstar Investment Conference (MIC) manages to thread the needle like few other events can. Perhaps it’s simply a function of Morningstar’s stature in the investment company that allows it to successfully dictate terms to its speakers – “you may be from an investment company, but you will be educational and will not just pitch products from the podium!” Regardless of the reason, though, the end result is that at Morningstar, you get real perspective on investment managers, what they’re doing and thinking, and some relevant investment ideas you can take home and implement.

So if you’re looking for new investment ideas and strategies, an opportunity to see the whole range of investment solutions out there (the monstrous exhibit hall with rows and rows of booths at the Morningstar Investment Conference is a site to behold!), and want to hear directly from leading fund managers (recent keynote speakers have included Bill Gross, Jeremy Grantham, David Kelly, and more), this is the conference for you.

Who Should Attend: Financial advisors who are responsible for picking investments for clients, or those who are members of an Investment Committee and are looking for new ideas to bring back to the office.

Details: June 13th – 15th in Chicago, IL.

Cost: $850. Early bird discount: $155 off if registered by March 18th. Nerd’s Eye View readers get an additional $50 off with the KITCES50 discount code!

Conference Website: Morningstar Investment Conference


Wen it comes to investment management conferences for advisors, the IMCA Annual Conference deserves an honorable mention as well. In fact, I recognized the IMCA conference as a top Investment Management event for 2015, and it continues to be a neck-and-neck competitor to Morningstar in this category. Many advisors actually alternate between the two, every other year.

From a content perspective, the distinction between the IMCA conference and Morningstar is that the latter tends to have heavier exposure of actual mutual fund and other investment managers and a bit more of a focus on products and solutions, while the IMCA conference has a bit more of an investment strategy focus with an educational and academic bent (expect to see a lot of Ph.D.s on the agenda discussing the laest in investment theory, along with the usual slate of investment strategists).

Given its roots in serving investment management consultants – IMCA literally stands for the “Investment Management Consultants Association”! – the increasingly common role of financial advisors crafting model portfolios and designing and implementing investment strategy with clients (as opposed to just pitching stocks and mutual funds) has made IMCA’s conference very relevant, and its content is always top notch.

The 2016 event will run April 17-20 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL. You can find more information on the event here, and Nerd’s Eye View readers who are not IMCA members can get $400 off the non-member rate (paying the standard $995 IMCA member rate!) by clicking this special registration link (discounts apply in final checkout process).

Best Conference For Young Advisors: FPA NexGen Gathering

When you’re a relatively new advisor and still going through your first few years in the business, the traditional financial planning conference can feel big and overwhelming. And isolating as well, because it only takes a 20-something or 30-something a few minutes at a major financial planning conference to realize that the average age of a financial advisor is pretty close to the age of their parents! Which, for most young people, are not exactly the age of people you typically hang out with.

NexGen was born out of this very isolating feeling of being a “young” person in a baby-boomer-centric profession, and has become a community of more than 2,000 financial advisors under the age of 36 (and part of the Financial Planning Association) who can relate with the shared experience of what it’s like trying to get started as a financial planner in today’s world.

Accordingly, while NexGen is the community for young financial planners, the NexGen Gathering is the conference where they all come together. And in this regard, it’s a very unique event.

Unlike the ‘traditional’ advisor conference, with a structured scheduled and day after day of CE credits, for the past several years the NexGen Gathering has been arranged in a much more open format. Literally, the agenda is made at the conference by the people who are there, who spend the first half day talking about the pressing issues that are impacting those in attendance, and selecting topics for discussion based on the most commonly stated needs of the group.

In this context, then, the NexGen Gathering operates more like a program for reflecting on personal and career development, than any kind of “educational” conference event (though you’ll certainly be learning from your peers in the process!). But frankly, for a lot of newer advisors who are struggling in their first few years of the business, that’s the most valuable kind of learning of all; if you want educational content for CE credits, just go take a post-CFP educational program (or earn your CE credits from this blog!).

Who Should Attend: Financial advisors who are age 36 and under, and ideally no more than 10 years of experience (and can be as little as 0 years of experience!).

Details: June 10th – 12th at The University of Texas at Dallas

Cost: Not Yet Announced, but last year was an ultra-affordable $199 for FPA members ($225 for non-FPA-members).

Conference Website: FPA NexGen Gathering

Best International Conference For Non-US Advisors: FPA BE

With financial planning on the rise around the globe, the total number of CFP certificants is now up over 150,000, and the bulk of the growth in recent years has occurred outside of the US. Nonetheless, the reality remains that the CFP marks started here in the US, and the US alone still has almost 50% of the total number of CFP professionals worldwide.

Given the global growth of financial planning from its CFP base here in the US, it is perhaps not surprising that advisors from many countries around the world seek to visit the United States and our financial planning conferences to gain perspective on where the profession is going, and to identify best practices that they might take home to their own countries. In fact, one of the most common questions I receive from non-US financial planners is a request for suggestions on which US-based conferences they should attend for ideas and insights.

In this context, there is no better conference to visit than FPA BE, the annual conference for the 24,500-strong Financial Planning Association membership association, and what I’ve long called “The Big Show” in financial planning. Ironically, FPA BE has actually struggled to grow here in the US, with attendance that is still barely 50% of what its pre-financial-crisis peak (and as noted in this post, most advisors would probably benefit more by attending other more focused events). Nonetheless, FPA BE is still one of the largest cross-sections of all types of financial advisors (with registration that has fluctuated from 1,000 to almost 2,000 advisor attendees in recent years), and a good representation of the current state of financial planning in the US.

Who Should Attend: Non-US-based financial advisors who want perspective on financial planning in the US, and some ideas about financial planning trends and best practices to take home to their own country and practice.

Details: September 14th – 16th in Baltimore, MD.

Cost: Not Yet Announced, but the most recent conference was $1,099 for FPA members ($1,299 for non-Members), with a $200 early bird summer in the discount and an ultra-early-bird discount even further in advance.

Conference Website: FPA BE Annual Conference

Best Practice Management Conferences: Insider’s Forum And The XYPN Annual Conference

When it comes to practice management, the key word for a successful conference is “relevance”. Advisors have a very wide range of advisory firms, are at different stages of their personal and career development, and as a result what is “good practice management” content varies tremendously from one advisor to the next.

In fact, while many advisor conference organizers lament that it’s hard to build a successful practice management session because practice management content is not eligible for CFP CE, I continue to maintain that the real reason most events struggle on practice management content is simply because the content isn’t relevant for the overly broad audience.

In other words, a good practice management conference requires a homogenous group of advisors who have common needs, such that a program can be designed that will truly be relevant to all those who attend and participate.

Accordingly, the standouts in the practice management category are two conferences that haveclearly identified the target niche type of advisor attendee for whom the conference is best.


The Insider’s Forum, originally dubbed the “Business and Wealth Management Conference”, is targeted towards successful advisors who want to keep growing their practices, with a unique offering particularly for mid-to-large-sized independent advisory firms (e.g., an “ensemble” firm with $3M+ of revenue with multiple partners), who face a wide array of complex business problems that are rarely understood by anyone but other firms of a similar size facing the same challenges.

And to really delve into the challenges of growing wealth management firms, Insider’s Forum offers three tracks, each with custom content specifically designed for that functional role within a large advisory firm: the first track is specifically for CEOs who run large advisory firms; the second is for Chief Investment Officers and supporting investment professionals who drive the investment decisions of the firm; and the last is for Chief Operating Officer (COO) leaders, Operations Managers, and the key staff members and implementers who support them.

The Operations track in particular deserves special mention, as there are virtually no conferences with content and networking opportunities specifically for COOs and Operations Managers to network with their peers at other advisory firms to get insight on best practices.

Also notable at Insider’s Forum is its “by-invitation-only” exhibit hall, which Veres hand-picks (along with his speakers for all the tracks), to ensure appropriateness and relevance of the vendors/solutions for the large-firm attendees.

Who Should Attend: Independent advisory firms focused on growth, particularly those mid-to-large sized independent advisory firms (e.g., an “ensemble” firm with $3M+ of revenue with multiple partners). Ideal attendees would be the firm’s partners and/or CEO, the COO and/or Operations Manager, and the Chief Investment Officer and/or supporting investment team.

Details: September 19th – 21st at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA.

Cost: Not yet announced, but last year’s cost was $950 to attend, plus $595 for each additional member of the firm. An early bird discount will likely apply, and Nerd’s Eye View readers can get an additional $75 off with KITCESBVIF discount code!

Conference Website: Insider’s Forum


In a world where much of the financial services industry either ignores young clients altogether, insists they have to be sold products to be profitable, or tries to “serve” them with nothing more than self-service “robo” solutions, the XY Planning Network is a turnkey financial planning platform (TFPP) designed to help Gen X and Gen Y advisors serve Gen X and Gen Y clients by delivering financial planning services for an affordable monthly fee (i.e., a “monthly retainer” business model).

To support the growth of financial planning for underserved young clients, the XY Planning Network conference brings together advisors who are currently executing the model (along with those who want to learn how!) to share ideas and best practices from/with each other. Sessions in the conference’s practice management track are almost exclusively panel presentations featuring advisors who are executing the model successfully with their clients, to discuss key aspects from how to price services on an upfront and ongoing basis, how to raise retainer fees, how to bridge the income gap when starting a practice, and exactly what the advisors do and don’t deliver to clients in ongoing services to support client retention.

In its first year (2015), the XYPN conference sold out its initial 120 registrations months in advance, expanded to 175, and sold out again more than a month before the conference. The 2016 event in San Diego has space for 400, but may sell out again, so interested advisors should purchase tickets sooner rather than later!

Who Should Attend: Advisors who wish to either start their own practice serving Gen X and Gen Y clients, or who wish launch an offering to serve Gen X and Gen Y clients within a larger advisory firm.

Details: September 19th – 21st in San Diego, CA.

Cost: $149 for XYPN members, $399 for non-members. Early bird discounts will apply. Nerd’s Eye View readers can get an additional $25 off with KITCES25 discount code!

Conference Website: XYPN16 Conference


Because the best practice management conferences are the ones that include an audience of other advisors “just like you”, the best alternative for advisors who don’t fit one of the two options above is to attend the annual conference for your custodian or broker-dealer, which will tend to have similar advisors simply by virtue of the shared platform. And in turn, the platforms tend to run reasonably good practice management events, because they want to make their advisors more successful, since ultimately more successful advisors on the platform mean more revenue for the platform itself, too!

Given the sheer size of some custodians and broker-dealers, these annual conferences are actually some of the biggest in the industry (events like Schwab IMPACT 2016 and LPL Focus 2016 will likely draw 2,000+ attendees), and can include “premier” keynote speakers (last year’s IMPACT included former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and “also” former president George W. Bush!). Although ultimately, the real reason to attend the annual conference of your advisor platform is simply to learn the latest about the tools and technology that will be coming available, to talk to the company leadership, and to network with advisor peers who can share best practices (relevant to your platform).

Best Conference For Advisor Social Media/Blogging: FinCon 2016

While financial advisors have been relatively slow to adopt blogging and social media strategies, a recent study from Putnam finds that adoption is on the rise, with a whopping 79% of advisors now reporting that they have acquired client(s) through social media (with the median asset gain standing at $1.9M). Yet notwithstanding the rise of digital and inbound marketing strategies, there has never been a standalone event for financial advisors to share and learn best practices. At best, advisors had to go to digital marketing conferences outside of the industry (like New Media Expo [NMX]), or perhaps the broader FinCon conference for all personal finance bloggers (not specific to advisors).

In 2015, however, FinCon launched the first Advisor Symposium on Social Media and Blogging, a new standalone track designed by advisors (including yours truly!) for advisors. With content from how to build your brand online as a financial advisor, using video to promote and differentiate yourself, content marketing compliance, bringing in clients through podcasting, and what track and measure to determine “success” as an advisor blogger, the Advisor Symposium was designed to help advisors get established and gain momentum in their online/digital “inbound” marketing strategies.

In 2016, the Advisor track is being rolled back into the main FinCon conference, but with plans for some advisor-specific sessions, it should still have the best blend of content marketing experts and consultants that work with advisors on digital strategies. And because there are virtually no alternatives for financial advisor bloggers, FinCon still attracts the most advisors who are really doing blogging and social media strategies successfully, who can share their lessons learned the hard way. Ironically, this is one way that advisors who are now becoming bloggers and using social media are “lucky” – there’s an opportunity to learn from those who have gone down the path already, and now there’s a conference to hear their stories.

Who Should Attend: Advisors who are looking to get started with blogging and social media, or those who have begun down that path and are looking to share ideas and best practices with others who are doing the same!

Details: September 21ts – 24th at the Sheraton San Diego in San Diego, CA.

Cost: TBD, registration will open around December of 2015. And come back to this article when FinCon registration opens for a potential Nerd’s Eye View reader discount!

Conference Website: FinCon 2016

Best Conference For Wealth Management: IMCA Private Wealth Advisor

While the labels are often blended together in practice, I would maintain there is a substantive difference between broad-based “financial planning” and the delivery of “private wealth management” in particular; the former is the general framework of giving financial advice and helping people achieve their goals, while the latter is more directly focused on very high net worth clients that have unique private-wealth-related challenges, from estate tax issues to more complex investment situations to sophisticated charitable planning strategies and endeavors.

Accordingly, because private wealth management is a more focused discipline within the broader financial planning framework, it makes sense that those who focus on ultra-high-net-worth clientele should have a standalone conference focused on the planning issues and challenges relevant for them and their clientele. And that’s what the IMCA Private Wealth Advisor (formerly IMCA Advanced Wealth Management) conference aims to deliver.

At the event, you’ll find a line-up of sessions that should be very relevant if you work primarily with high-net-worth clients, from the latest estate planning strategies (some of which may soon be eliminated, like rolling 2-year GRATs and sales to IDGTs!), to navigating the family dynamics of ultra-high-net-worth families, to closely-held-business planning, and more. Of course, many of these topics (estate planning, tax, investments) would be relevant to a wider swathe of advisors and their clients as well, but again the nature of the private wealth management conference is that it’s specifically focused on specifically on the issues of the high net worth client.

For those who have obtained IMCA’s Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA) or CIMA certifications, the event also provides a nice opportunity to get the requisite IMCA continuing education credits, too!

Who Should Attend: Financial advisors who work with high-net-worth clientele (e.g., $5M+ net worth, ideally $10M+) who are looking for a broad range of relevant strategies and ideas to take home and implement.

Details: Dates for 2016 not yet announced, but typically in October.

Cost: $895 for IMCA members, $1,345 for non-IMCA members, $100 early-bird discount for registering by September 2nd, 2016. Nerd’s Eye View readers who are not IMCA members can get $450 off the non-member rate (paying the standard $895 IMCA member rate!) by clicking this special registration link (discounts apply in final checkout process).

Conference Website: IMCA Advanced Wealth Management


Early on, IMCA’s focus was primarily on investment management, and it’s only been in the past decade or so that the organization materially moved into wealth management. However, IMCA is not the only organization with its roots in investment that has gone increasingly wealth management lately; the CFA Institute has been doing it too, and now offers its own Wealth Management conference, which in 2016 will run on March 16-17 in Minneapolis.

Given its investment-based roots, the CFA Wealth Management conference still has a fairly heavy concentration of investment-related sessions, but as wealth management grows, so too does the breadth of its content, including upcoming speakers on health care issues for clients, retirement planning topics, and yours-truly speaking about advisor technology and digital trends in financial planning.

Notably, though, the agenda of the CFA Wealth Management conference has historically been less tax-centric (in terms of both income and estate tax planning) than IMCA conferences usually are. So if you’re a more tax-centric firm you may prefer the IMCA event. On the other hand, if you’re more investment-oriented already and just trying to start expanding more into the wealth management space – and especially if you’re already a CFA charterholder – the CFA Wealth Management event will feel like a better fit for you.