Down economy subdues advisor attendance at fall conferences, FPA says

Schwab and IMCA events could avoid drops from last year

Monday 9.7.09 by Brooke Southall

Conference attendance for Schwab IMPACT 2009 and the Investment Management Consultants Association’s fall event is running close to last year.

The same can’t be said for most financial conferences, according to Samantha Chernak, spokeswoman for the Financial Planning Association of Denver, Colo.

“Overall, financial industry conferences are tracking lower in attendance across the board, primarily due to the economy’s downturn in the past year,” she says.

Ms. Chernak declined to say how many advisors have registered for its annual conference in Anaheim, Calif. that runs Oct. 9 to Oct. 13

“FPA attendance projections were adjusted [downward] and we are on target to meet our revised goals,” she says. “In discussions with other conference organizers, we’ve learned that in comparison, the FPA Annual Conference attendance has not experienced as much of a drop as other gatherings.”

By January, 7% of 2009 conferences had already been cancelled and attendance was projected to be 5% lower for the year, according to a blog posting on that cited a FutureWatch 2009 survey conducted by Meeting Planners International and American Express in January 2009.

Schwab and IMCA may match last year

IMCA and Schwab seem to be bettering these national conference attendance statistics.

IMCA has 797 individual registrations for its 2009 Fall Professional Development Conference in Atlanta and, says Beau Ballinger, spokesman for that Denver-based organization. For its 2008 Fall Professional Development Conference in Denver, it had 672 advisors register before the early-bird deadline. This puts IMCA 19% ahead of last year’s registration for this checkpoint.

IMCA’s final conference registration totaled 1,017 for the fall 2008 conference, with 810 advisors registering and 207 sponsor-exhibitor registrations, Ballinger adds.

Schwab has 1,300 advisors registered to attend its IMPACT 2009 conference in San Diego next week. Schwab had about 1,400 advisors attend IMPACT 2008 in Atlanta.

Schwab IMPACT’s high water mark for attendance was nearly 2,000 advisors in 2007.

Brokers make new conference choices

Yet Schwab’s registrations are way up in one category of attendee: breakaway broker prospects. It expects 45 brokers from 32 wirehouse teams to attend IMPACT.

This attendance by these wirehouse employees is up at least threefold from prior years, according to Barnaby Grist, managing director of strategic business development at the San Francisco-based company.

IMCA has fewer wirehouse brokers registered for its conference this year [and more independent advisors registered], Ballinger says. Of its 754 registrations, 255 of them are affiliated with the “big four” wirehouses (Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, UBS, and Wells Fargo/Wachovia Advisors), which is about 34% of the total, he adds.

Of those 810 individual registrations in 2008, 353 or 44% were brokers with the “big five” wirehouses, Ballinger says.

Tiburon Strategic Advisors holds it semi-annual CEO Summit Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 and attendance is solid, according to its managing principal, Charles Roame.

“We are full already at 109,” he says. “We aim to stay between 100 and 125 attendees. We may not be the best yard stick because we manage our numbers by raising the bar intentionally. It was easy to fill our seats.”

And IMCA could still have more news to report about how many and what kinds of advisors register. “We still have 27 days until our conference and the makeup of attendees may change depending on the registrations we receive over the next four weeks,” Ballinger says.

Editor’s Note: I got interested in what was going on with conference attendance after talking to a couple of executives. They told me they were making double certain of attending Schwab IMPACT this year because it was the biggest one and it would make up for not attending other conferences. When I asked Schwab how its attendance was doing a couple of weeks ago, it was only 1,000 advisors. But as I prepared to publish this article registrations had surged to 1,300 in the meantime. If Schwab gives me updates during the week, I’ll update this article.

Editor’s Note II: I’ll attending Schwab’s IMPACT conference and I’ll be reporting blog-style at RIABiz and I’ll also give Twitter updates. Follow @RIABiz. My first report will cover the Sunday pre-conference chat between PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian and BlackRock CEO Laurance D. Fink.

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