Financial Advisors

Advisor Virtual Resilience Series - Virtual Thought Leadership Panels

All financial services professionals, their vendor partners, and their clients were catapulted into a new virtual operating environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This quickly led to the unquestioned realization of the need for rapid learning on how to navigate this new, unprecedented world of volatility, uncertainty, confusion, and ambiguity. It caused many to go in search of… insightful and motivating thought leadership.

It was very heartening to see a sizable number of major digital forums and virtual meetings that were quickly conceived of and implemented to start addressing these massive concerns. In the process, these efforts began modeling the leadership and positive actions needed for our rapidly changing age – build stronger strategic partnerships, offer many varied perspectives, and more intently learn together with our audience.  

The Institute continues its new interview series with Virtual Engagement Leaders to examine and learn from their recent virtual event experiences. One such virtual event created by Corey Westphal CEO of MobileAssistant – a #FinTech company that is transforming traditional dictation service technology into an advisor client engagement and business enhancer – evolved into a series of virtual panels with FinTech and advisory firm leaders. Panelists included Adam Holt CEO of Asset-Map, Brian McLaughlin CEO of Redtail Technology, Robert Sofia CEO of Snappy Kraken, Eric Clarke CEO of Orion Advisor Tech, Lori Hardwick Chairman of Riskalyze, and Corey Westphal CEO of Mobile Assistant.

The event was free to financial professional participants and they covered a broad range of important industry topics including: Leading Through Change, Perseverance, Remote Working Principles and Tactics, and Implementing Tech Integrations. The response they received was immediate and drove them to evolve their outreach into three virtual events with over 1,500 advisors registering. This clearly   demonstrated the need and desire for this kind of information, guidance, and outreach of support.

We reached out to Corey Westphal to ask about the mechanics of how he developed and implemented such a well-attended virtual panel series with such a broad cross section of industry leaders. Hopefully, besides all the great advice provided for financial professionals, it also inspires advisors to consider developing their own thought leader panels and position themselves to proactively address the issues and concerns of their clients and their local communities.

Hortz: What was behind your thinking that motivated you to put together this engagement strategy for your advisor clients and prospects?

Westphal: In March, 2020, like most in the financial industry, I found myself in a new quarantined reality with typical engagement channels suspended. With in-person broker dealer events and other fintech conferences cancelled, there was a large-scale elimination of some of our industry’s most important ways to interact and connect with our clients - the financial advisor community. Faced with this new reality, and recognizing that every financial advisor was dealing with a similar type of quarantined environment, I felt it was important to ask the question, “What could I do to connect with the financial advisor community in a positive way?”

My initial thought was not just what I could offer to my clients. Instead, I thought about all the great relationships and strategic partnerships I had built over the years with some of the smartest, most positive people on the planet in the FinTech industry. Working closely with them over time, I had observed firsthand how this specific group of financial technology execs led through change in the past. I had a great feeling that they would be willing to share their knowledge and experience dealing with the current crisis we had all found ourselves working through. 

Hortz: How did you bring in so many FinTech and advisor industry CEOs so quickly?

Westphal: The idea was a simple one: assemble six FinTech leaders to have a candid, non-scripted, open discussion about relevant, real-time topics affecting the advisor community during the unprecedented Covid-19 global pandemic of 2020. My goal was for this group to share principles and tactics that we have implemented within our own organizations that might help others adapt quickly in the sudden remote working environment.

I reached out to these leaders and every one of the CEOs invited to participate responded within hours, which says a lot about the character and desire from these leaders to communicate and lead from the front during such a difficult time. We all agreed to schedule our first CEO Roundtable webinar April 2nd. After the first event, all of the participants received such positive feedback and requests from the financial community for a follow up event that a CEO Roundtable 2.0 was scheduled for that very next week, and a final 3.0 version was developed that included an advisor panel.

Hortz: What were the main steps you took after your idea and putting together your CEO partners to launch your event?

Westphal: I have been utilizing virtual meeting solutions for years, so the technology for the CEO Roundtable was not a challenge. What proved to be the most time consuming and, also, one of the most important aspects of the pre-event activities was the marketing and digital promotion of the event to the financial community.  I will be the first to admit that, without a Chief Marketing Officer to lean on, my creative and marketing skills were stretched to their limits.  Just ask my friend Adam Holt, the CEO at Asset-Map, who spent many late nights on video calls with me, helping to bring to life ideas, Roundtable image concepts, and email and social media communication strategies.  With only a week to prepare and promote, every day leading up to the event was filled with late night preparation.

The cooperation and active partnering shown by the participating CEO Roundtable companies to help communicate the messaging from Mobile Assistant to both their social media followers and customer communities was amazing and made me feel a sense of family within the FinTech space.  I appreciated the efforts by Asset-Map, Redtail, Riskalyze, Orion, and Snappy Kraken who all contributed so much to the success and the incredible attendance of this series.

Hortz: What were the key dynamics of making this event successful?

Westphal: When you have six company leaders come together to share ideas and tactics relevant to the remote working environment, you would think a specific agenda and structure would be needed.  Since we wanted to make this event happen very quickly, I instead relied on the professionalism of the Roundtable participants to have an open, candid discussion with a theme of remote working, change management and perseverance. No PowerPoint presentations, no marketing videos, just real people discussing topics at the forefront of the advisor community.

The result was an open, honest discussion, with great take-aways for the advisor audience that could help reduce the stress that comes with change, and tactics that could be implemented to make an immediate impact in their lives.  

Hortz: What were the major obstacles and how did you solve for them?

Westphal: An obstacle did present itself upon the commencement of the first CEO Roundtable event. We had over 500 people registered, so we adjusted our account (or so we thought), with the virtual meeting provider, to increase the capacity of attendees from our 100 maximum plan.  The adjustment unfortunately was not made, so once we reached 100 attendees, people who wanted to join real-time could not.  The event was recorded, so no one missed out on the great discussions.

Post-meeting, we still were unable to contact the company to change our plan and were forced to choose another virtual meeting solution for our next CEO Round table events.  The massive increase in customers for that former vendor company had obviously impacted their customer service.  Luckily for us, there were a number of reliable virtual meeting solutions to choose from.

During the quarantine, an observation of mine was how flexible and understanding both attendees and participants of webinars have been.  Most people seem to understand companies are doing their best when conducting webinars, and appreciate the effort made to communicate a message more than the flawless execution of navigating virtual meeting technologies.

Hortz: What were some of the most interesting or useful advice presented during the three panels?

Westphal: The CEO Roundtables included leaders from companies who each provide advisors specific solutions in the tech stack foundation:  Asset-Map - a state of the art financial advisor mapping software, Redtail - a leading CRM with hundreds of fintech integrations, Orion - the premier portfolio accounting system, Riskalyze - a powerful risk alignment tool, Snappy Kraken - cutting-edge marketing automation services, and my firm Mobile Assistant - a high tech, human quality dictation solution for documenting client interactions. The combination of so many aspects of an advisor’s workflow technology allowed for topics to be addressed from multiple thought leader perspectives.

As to key highlights there were so many of them that it may be best to give you links to Craig Iskowitz and his Wealth Management Today blog that did a great job in chronicling and compiling the best ideas and advice from our 3 Roundtables:

Roundtable 1 - CEO Roundtable: Leading Through Change in The Age of COVID19

Roundtable 2 - 6 Smart Strategies for Managing Remote Wealthtech Employees

Roundtable 3 - 13 Reasons Advisors Should Be Emperors of Their Technology Domains

Our YouTube channel also contains all 3 Roundtables in their entirety if you want to dig further:

Hortz: Any last thoughts about what you learned through this event and want to share with financial professionals and other industry leaders thinking about doing virtual engagement events?

Westphal: The biggest take-away for me personally, was how proud I was to be part of the financial technology industry. Every one of the leaders who joined me made it very clear why they are successful at leading teams through adversity. The willingness to share ideas, experiences, and best practices that have worked for all of us I think provided advisors a beacon of positivity and hopefulness that we’re all going to get through this time in history by working together.

Another key point was the realization that just because you are surrounded by uncertainty and stress, that does not mean you have to hide. By leading through change, advisors heard from all of the Roundtable CEOs that, no matter the difficulties, you can make a positive impact in the lives of your clients and community through communication and perseverance.  

My advice to advisors considering virtual engagement events - just do it!  Do not let the possibility of technology issues or event structure difficulties stop you from leading through change. Your clients will appreciate your effort, and I promise they will welcome more engagement from you, their trusted advisor. This is the time to show clients that you are there for them, and willing to adapt your engagement solutions to communicate your message.   

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Bill Hortz

Bill Hortz is an independent business consultant and Founder/Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development- a financial services business innovation platform and network. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry including expertise in sales/marketing/branding of asset management firms, as well as, creatively restructuring and developing internal/external sales and strategic account departments for 5 major financial firms, including OppenheimerFunds, Neuberger&Berman and Templeton Funds Distributors. His wide ranging experiences have led Bill to a strong belief, passion and advocation for strategic thinking, innovation creation and strategic account management as the nexus of business skills needed to address a business environment challenged by an accelerating rate of change.

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