The final two conferences of the year will take place on September 12th in Philadelphia, and the following day, September 13th in Washington DC.
To discuss the “Sustainable Investing Solutions For Tomorrow’s Clients Appointments Conference” SunStar Strategic’s Ben Gerow, Associate Account Executive, sat down with Paul Ellis who has been helping produce the conferences.
Ben: Paul, can you tell us a bit about the main focus of the conference and how many years it has been held?
Paul: The whole point of the conference is to provide a context where RIAs who are interested in a sustainable approach to investing can meet asset managers in this part of the industry, can hear from other RIAs who are already doing this successfully, and can build other relationships with other advisors in their community.
This is the first year for the “Sustainable Investment Symposiums”. We’ve done four so far this year, DC and Philadelphia will be the last two of 2017. We will have a full schedule of symposiums for 2018.
Ben: Given the growth trajectory of the industry, do you think the conference will grow at the same rate as the industry?
Paul: There will be an opportunity for the conference to grow as the industry grows. There are already a number of very good conferences in this part of the industry dedicated to education and information for all the participants in the industry. The people who are focused on and participate in sponsoring this conference do it because we are specifically reaching RIAs. One of the things we believe that has happened in the overall industry is that conferences have gotten very large. There are a lot of people from different parts of the industry that attend, so there isn’t enough direct focus on advisors. That’s what these symposiums are about- the sole purpose is to help advisors. We are very comfortable holding a conference with under 100 people in the room together (including panelist, sponsors, and RIA attendees).
Ben: Do you think keeping the conference small helps with networking amongst attendees?
Paul: I think it does help. A one room conference where you’re spending a number of hours together, doing a number of activities together, including table topic discussions together over lunch where either a sponsor or an asset manager will lead a discussion for the advisors at the table about a particular subject can be invaluable. Advisors can pick a table to sit at for lunch and engage in a discussion on “how do you do fossil free investing,” with the other 7 or 8 people at the table. In my experience as an advisor for 23 years, those are the times when I learn the most – when I’m engaged in dialogue with other members of my profession as well as other people in this part of the industry. At very large conferences it’s harder to do that.
Ben: Has the conference put any emphasis on reaching millennials given the recent coverage surrounding their willingness to sacrifice their private wealth for the public good?
Paul: One of the things that we always talk about at these conferences and focus on is the trends in the industry, and the millennial/baby boomer wealth transition is a big issue across the industry. Millennials have a different mindset about what they want from their investments which include clean water, safe place to raise children, etc. The millennial generation is responding to surveys and saying when they inherit from parents/grandparents they’re not even going to talk to advisors who don’t do practice business in a manner aligned with their views.
The current advisor community is reacting to those attitudes by ignoring them. If they are smart, they are bringing millennials into their practice so they have people who can help them learn how to integrate these beliefs and behaviors into their existing client relationships or take on the responsibly with things like social media.
Ben: Any last thoughts or anything you’d like to emphasize about the upcoming conference?
Paul: It’s valuable for any RIA to attend these types of meetings, not only to start building relationships in the community, but also to gather information to take back to their next client meeting. That’s truly the intent behind these conferences. Again, relationship building is a crucial component of the conference because we feel very strongly that this is the future of investing and at some point ESG metrics will be embedded into fundamental financial analysis across the entire industry. It’s incumbent for advisors to learn about this as part of their fiduciary role.