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Mixing It Up In Salt Lake City - The Take Away

I recently returned from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. As usual, there was great information on a number of relevant investment and financial planning topics. I’ll cover the conference in more detail with future posts, but first I want to share my experience with my NAPFA Mix group.

I’ve mentioned my Mix group before, but to review, there are seven of us who began meeting about four years ago. We’re a group of like-minded, fee-only advisors who are partners or sole owners of our own independent investment firms. We gather twice a year from all across the country including New York City, Cincinnati, San Diego, Washington DC, Seattle and Ann Arbor. And of course I represent the Portland/Vancouver area.

Normally we cover topics such as best practices, investment strategies, and ever-evolving topics such as compliance and technology. Each time we meet, or in conference calls between meetings, we each share our individual circumstances, to learn from and offer ideas to one another. This has always been my favorite part of our meeting, and this one was no exception.

As each of us took a turn sharing, I was struck by how similar we all are with respect to our client investment experience. We all strive to keep costs low, minimize taxes and invest clients’ assets wisely through globally diversified portfolios. Generally, we manage investments to minimize our clients’ exposure to unnecessary risk as they work toward achieving and sustaining their lifetime goals such as retirement.

Even when we exchanged antacids at our fall 2008 meeting in Las Vegas during the terrible downturn, I’ve always been encouraged that there are many of us whose business models focus on fiduciary levels of care. Though we may sometimes arm wrestle over whether to use fund ABC versus XYZ, these lively discussions pale in comparison to our shared, overarching, client-centric investment philosophy.

Though we spent much of our time discussing our own personal situations, we also talked about broader topics that are receiving much attention these days, primarily compliance and technology. Both of these issues have touched all of our firms in the last year or so. The new fiduciary standard of care that the SEC is recommending be applied to stock brokers as well as  independent advisors has many of us wondering what it means practically, and how it will be implemented.

Compliance and technology often go hand in hand. Issues such as custody, security, documentation, and communication are all addressed in an effort to protect the client. It seems that some of the newer technology already factors in many of the compliance requirements, and that’s a good thing for us and the clients. Though I won’t bore you with all the details of what applies to us as advisors, I think it is fair to say that both compliance and technology are evolving.

The underlying theme for NAPFA members is to keep the clients’ interests first. Each time I return from a Mix meeting, I feel even more inspired that we are firmly on the right track with that belief. I hope to post more details soon on the overall conference itself and some of the highlights.

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