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How Inside ETFs explored the trends that really matter

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A week after Inside ETFs 2020, Johnny Sandquist, founder and owner, Three Crowns, speaks about how the conference got to the heart of the most exciting conversations and developments in the ETF industry. The conference demonstrated that ETFs are evolving and rejected the same old conversations advisors hear over and over again.

It seems impossible these days to read an article about trends in the ETF industry without it being all about ESG, non-transparent ETF structures, or cryptocurrency and the possibility of a bitcoin ETF.

This article is going to cover none of that.

Instead, I stepped aside to look at the technology that caught my eye, the practice management trends everyone seemed to be talking about, and which sessions will stick with attendees longer than the winter tan they got in sunny South Florida.

Eye-Catching technology

This was my first time attending Inside ETFs. Typically, I attend custodian or technology vendor conferences, and I’m used to seeing rows upon rows of wealthtech vendors in the exhibit halls of those events.

At Inside ETFs, the technology vendor portion of the exhibit hall took up a more niche footprint, and that helped to train my focus on some impressive solutions, including one in particular.

"Trading commission fees have reached zero...now what?"

This event was my first chance to get an up-close look at ETF Logic, an ETF analytics platform for financial advisors, asset managers, and ETF issuers.

ETF Logic’s software fills a major need with tools that allow users to compare ETFs in a side-by-side grid, or screen funds by criteria like peer group and stock exposure.

It’s all packaged in a data-heavy - but intuitive - software interface.

Life after fees

One question kept coming up throughout the conference in different panels on stage, as well as during conversations in every hallway.

Trading commission fees have reached zero...now what?

During the State of the ETF Union session Dave Nadig, CIO of ETF Trends, offered that advisors should be focused on providing sophisticated advice to clients, with an emphasis on investor behavior and biases, instead of pinning their value on asset management.

"A lasting theme of Inside ETFs 2020 that has stuck with me is how important community and social outreach have become for financial advisors."

In another session titled How You Really Should Get Paid, Nina O’Neal, an Investment Advisor and Partner at Archer Investment Management, echoed Nadig’s sentiments about how advisors need to be doing more for their clients today than ever before.

“If you’re a fee only advisor, you need to offer other services,” she said, before explaining how her firm positions itself as the personal CFO for their clients.

A collaborative environment

A lasting theme of Inside ETFs 2020 that has stuck with me is how important community and social outreach have become for financial advisors.

Justin Castelli and Taylor Schulte, the founders of Advisor Growth Community, teamed up for a breakout session to discuss the importance of collaboration. Instead of viewing each other as competition, they argued, advisors need to team up, share their experiences, and treat each other as collaborators.

Schulte even provided an example of how his largest referral client came to him by way of another advisor in his city, rather than through an existing client.

That idea of collaboration continued in the Best New ETF of 2020 session, which wrapped up just before Derek Jeter’s closing keynote on day two. This “ETF Pundit Super Bowl” featured John Swolfs, Eric Balchunas, Matt Hougan, Ben Johnson, Elisabeth Kashner, Tom Lydon, Cinthia Murphy, Dave Nadig, Todd Rosenbluth, and Daniel Straus all vying for the audience’s approval of their chosen ETF.

Coming in with no expectations for what the session would be like, I was blown away by the friendly sparring, humor, and yes, rapping, that happened during this hilarious session featuring some of the industry’s best.

And I didn’t even mention Elisabeth Kashner’s Wonder Woman outfit. That’s how you know the session was a memorable one.

The most memorable moment of the event for me, however, happened on the final morning as financial consultant and Altruist podcast host Tyrone Ross Jr. took the stage.

From the moment he stepped out, Tyrone commanded the room’s attention with a raw and powerful thirty minutes, telling the story of how his life had been impacted by people willing to give him opportunities and invest in his personal growth.

He challenged those in attendance to look at what they could do to change the perception of the wealth management industry for the better. He capped off his session by asking for donations to a local nonprofit organization, Voices for Children of Broward County, which provides resources for children in the county’s welfare system.

When all was said and done, Inside ETFs 2020 provided an inspiring three days that gave attendees a better understanding of what to expect for ETFs in the year ahead, ideas to improve how their firm builds trust with clients; varied and well-structured networking times and hopefully, a better tan. Find out how you can get involved in 2021.

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