Dave has nearly 15 years of operations management and sales experience in small business and client service organizations. An avid sports fan and aspiring musician, he received an MBA with Distinction from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management with concentrations in Operations and Human Resources from University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He studied international business while attending school in China and also completed a sales certificate program at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside which is only 1 of 2 programs accredited by the University Sales Education Foundation in Wisconsin, and 1 of 55 nationwide.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the LPL Focus conference in San Diego, California. I would like to start out by thanking our hosts for the opportunity to attend (it was our first time) and for their hospitality.
The DOL at LPL
It was no surprise that a big focus of the conference was on the DOL. However, I felt that the approach taken to address the topic by the speakers did an outstanding job of driving home a few key points that I will address and add color to.
On opening day, the speaker at the welcoming reception had a key piece of advice for attendees that was as simple as it was powerful. He spoke of the uncertainty advisors have going into the new year with the DOL ruling, the questions they have surrounding their place going forward, and how they can comply while remaining successful. He reminded the audience that they have all been through college and other areas of advanced learning and that they needed hard work and dedication to make it to where they are today. He continued by emphasizing that all advisors have to do is work and study hard again, just as they had to before to get to their current professional state, so that they will continue to succeed and get back to a place of comfort once again.
DOL wisdom from the Fresh Prince
On the third day of the conference, I was able to attend the general session in which Will Smith, the Fresh Prince himself, was the guest speaker. My initial thought was that this was going to be a typical celebrity conversation like we see at a lot of other conferences that does not end up relating to the topics or the industry. That was not the case with Smith. His opening points reminded me of what the speaker at the welcome reception was talking about. Smith talked about how when he was a child, his brother and he worked at their family-owned business selling bags of ice in West Philadelphia (born and raised).
Despite the song lyrics claiming he spent most of his days at the playground, he shared a story of the time his brother and he were tasked with building a new brick wall at the family store. They felt that this was a task they would never be able to complete (can you see where I am going with this yet?). Their father told them not to think about it as an entire, daunting task. They should instead focus on laying one perfect brick at a time. If you work hard on a task in smaller and more manageable pieces, it will not seem as difficult. When they were done laying all the bricks perfectly, one-by-one, they realized they had finished the wall. This approach can be applied to the DOL standard and the compliance it requires. Financial professionals must break it down into more manageable components, focus on and study one area at a time, and they will succeed.
The role of technology in DOL compliance
Smith made two more key points. The first is that technology forces transparency and honesty. That can be painful but beautiful. This should be something all advisors should embrace with the DOL ruling. Advisors will ALL be required to show best interest in the client in the recommendations they make and ALL advisors also want to make sure they are covering themselves from liability when making recommendations. Bringing in technology that can do the calculations for them and provide the reasoning for best interest is only going to help advisors. They will cover themselves legally, save time, and provide a better client experience.
People over products
The final point he made to close his presentation was that you should always put people first. Advisors are worried about how they will make a living if they are not able to sell products and make the same money they used to on it. What they should be worried about is treating people with respect and doing what is best for their clients. Smith said, “people over products” – if you are good to people, you will be successful. He went on to say that an advisor’s mission should not be to make a lot of money, or to be "the best." It should be about doing the right thing for those they are serving and striving to improve the lives of those around them. I think that pretty much goes to the heart of what the DOL is trying to accomplish. Whether you feel prepared right now or not, it is time to get on board.