Barron’s recently wrapped up the 2018 edition of the Barron’s Top Independent Advisors Summit in Orlando. Whether you were in attendance or are looking to catch up on what you missed, today’s episode will give you an insightful snapshot of one of the most valuable get-togethers in our industry.

My guests today are Bill Keen and Matt Wilson of Keen Wealth Advisors, a fast-growing RIA with more than $400 million in AUM. Bill also has his own excellent podcast, Keen on Retirement, that you can subscribe to on iTunes right here.

Bill and Matt have attended the Barron’s Top Independent Advisors Summit and the wirehouse version for many years, so they have the perspective to connect the dots between the lessons from past conferences and where the 2018 summit is pointing. We talk about some of the key takeaways from this year’s event, the ongoing trend towards Life-Centered Planning, and how advisors can put these insights into action right now to grow their businesses.

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Top Takeaways from the 2018 Barron’s Top Independent Advisors Summit

1. Fees are declining but they haven’t hit advisors hard…yet.

Fee are declining in the industry, but so far, most of the decline has been on the product side, not the advisory fee side. We’ve all seen the battle between BlackRock, Vanguard, and Schwab to see who can be the first one to go to 0 bps on the ETF advisory fee. For advisors, the gross advisory fee has stayed relatively constant over the past decade, but advisors are having to deliver more value for that fee. As a result, we’re seeing some pressure on advisory firm profit margins. This points out the need for advisors to run efficient practices and utilize technology to its fullest, while not removing the humanness from the equation.

Fidelity released a study that said “stated” advisory fees are relatively constant, but advisors are starting to offer discounts from their stated fees. It said 64 percent of advisors are discounting their fees and the average discount was 21 bps. To read the full report from Fidelity, CLICK HERE.

2. Millennials could provide a large new pool of smaller assets to manage.

Notes Matt, “It does seem to be the theme with millennials that they don’t stick at jobs for very long. It might take four jobs before they find a career that they’re going to stay with. As a result, many of them have assets scattered all over the place, like 401(k)s, whereas a lot of the baby boomer generation, they worked at the same company their entire careers.” This could open up an opportunity for advisors to capture the rollover assets of these millennials.

Along with this, we’re also seeing a lot of advisory firms lower their minimum account size, or get rid of it completely. For the smaller clients, they charge a minimum monthly fee and provide a much narrower set of services compared to their full-service clients. And is some cases, they offer this lower tier service under a different brand in order to not dilute the main brand.

3. The RIA space is getting bigger as more firms cross the $1 billion in AUM threshold.

Fidelity’s David Canter mentioned that there are 12,000 RIA firms registered with the SEC. This means they have over $100 million in AUM. And of those 12,000, 622 now are over a billion dollars in AUM. On the other end, there are 24,000 RIAs at the state level who have less than $100 million in AUM. The industry seems to be bifurcating a bit. Firms at the small end can be profitable with low overhead. And firms over $1 billion can obviously do quite well, too. It’s the firms in the middle that can’t really benefit from the low overhead of a small firm or the scale efficiencies of a large firm. So the best advice is, stay small…or get big fast.

4. Face time is better than FaceTime.

“This year, I heard some of the folks that were talking about serving clients over Skype and GoToMeetings in previous years now backtracking,” says Bill, “and saying that it’s actually not bad to have local presence so that folks can sit across the table from each other. That’s been our experience. Our clients like to sit across the table from us. Some firms, where they send an iPad out and that’s how you communicate with the client, maybe that will work. But I think the focus on the personal relationship and getting to know clients deeply is a theme that’s going to be around for a while.”

While some people may prefer a virtual relationship, your highest value will usually come from delivering your advice in person. When the stakes are high and the conversations are crucial, people usually prefer to meet in person. But regardless of how you deliver your advice, make sure you optimize your business model to deliver it and price it profitably.

5.  Have you given up on…

Chris Voss, one of the keynote speakers, is a former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. He talked about some of the tactics he used as a negotiator that could be helpful to advisors. For example, he said if you have a prospect who is not responding to your emails, try using this as your subject line: “Have you given up on..” and then insert whatever it is you are asking if they’ve given up on. For example, you could say, “Have you given up on working with us?”

The idea is you want them to give you a no or a yes. A “maybe” that’s just hanging out there for months doesn’t do anybody any good. So if it’s a no, great, then move on to the next candidate.

Here’s a link to a podcast interview with Voss and here’s a link to his book on negotiating, Never Split the Difference.


Several of this year’s Barron’s speakers have been past guests on Between Now and Success.

– John Beatty: Surprising Insights From Schwab’s RIA Benchmarking Study

– David Canter: Becoming a Marketing Machine

– Sterling Shea: What It Takes to Become a Barron’s Top Advisor

– Marty Bicknell: Running Businesses, Acquisitions, and Separating Advice from Sales

– Jon Jones: How This RIA CEO Built His Business To Run Without Him For A Year

– Michael Nathanson: How to Be a Real Leader That Gets Results

– Shirl Penney: How RIAs Can Stay Independent and Grow Their Businesses

Keen Wealth Advisors Visit Bill and Matt online.

Keen on Retirement Read Bill’s blog and listen to his podcast.

Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.

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