Dispatches from the Innovate Summit

100 advisors walk into a hotel ballroom. 

No, it’s not the start of a joke. It’s the start of Stonewood’s Innovate Summit, which we hosted this week in Louisville. 

While we’ll have a complete roundup from the conference next week, I wanted to give you a few quick dispatches from the event. 

Consider these my notes on two fantastic days of training.

Top 5 Takeaways (for me) from Innovate Summit

(1) The election is 2024’s star topic.

Okay, my first takeaway is easy, because it’s something I discuss regularly. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and specifically a rock that doesn’t receive direct mail), you know there’s a big election coming up in November. The election provides an incredible environment for financial advisors to engage with their clients and prospects. Americans increasingly feel unstable about our governmental leadership. No one - Republican or Democrat - seems to feel great about the state of our country. All this uncertainty means savers are starting to worry about how this year’s election will impact them… and their assets. “Will the 2024 election impact your retirement?” is one of the most effective email subject lines we’re seeing this year. It taps into a question on savers’ minds… one they don’t quite know how to answer… and one that requires your help to address. If you’re an advisor who focuses on mitigating tax and legislative risk for your clients, this is THE year to double down.

(2) Automated webinars are back, baby!

My second takeaway came from some of our Stonewood marketing partners, who shared the success advisors are seeing from automated webinars. When the pandemic hit in 2020, many advisors transitioned their now-prohibited live seminars into virtual webinars. Once the country opened back up, advisors returned to live events. But in 2024, we’re seeing smart advisors reincorporate automated webinars as part of a more comprehensive marketing strategy. These webinars can be pre-recorded and then marketed to a variety of prospects - cold leads, warm lead lists, and current clients with additional wallet-share. Advisors are using automated webinars as “events” to drive leads in a particular time frame, or as “set-it-and-forget-it” marketing, running in the background of their marketing strategy and pushing regular leads to the practice. Either way, I’m declaring 2024 the year of the automated webinar.

(3) We need to answer the question: Are annuities a good ‘investment’?

Back in December, ThinkAdvisor ran an article on the most Googled questions about annuities. Unsurprisingly, many of the questions revolved around annuity guarantees. But one of the most googled questions may come as a surprise: It was simply, “Are annuities a good investment?” Oftentimes, we discuss annuities in terms of all the amazing things they can do as part of a holistic retirement approach: provide income that can’t be outlived, or provide growth in a more predictable pattern. But as my colleague Neil explained at the conference, if we aren’t evaluating an annuity’s ability to drive alpha for a client, we aren’t addressing the question that’s really in the back of their minds: “How do the results from this annuity compare to the results I could get from a managed account?” (If you want to learn more on this approach, check out this webinar on using FIAs to drive alpha for clients.)

(4) Estate taxes are income taxes.

My fourth takeaway is that we need a broader view of the kinds of taxes we evaluate as part of estate planning. We know that with the Trump Tax Cuts expiring in 2025, the estate tax exemptions will revert from its current rate of around $12 million (for single filers) back to its pre-reform rate of around $5 million (adjusted for inflation). Even at the lower rate, many of our clients won’t meet the threshold. But, do you know what tax every one of our clients will meet the threshold for? The income tax. Currently, $38 trillion is saved in retirement accounts, like IRAs and 401(k)s. Those accounts are one of the primary ways assets are passed from one generation to the next. So, when it comes to limiting taxes on your client’s estate, focusing on the estate tax is only half the equation. We have to help mitigate income taxes, too - for your client, their spouse, and their heirs.

(5) Live trainings educate - on the stage and off. 

My final takeaway is perhaps the simplest, but it’s one that I often forget. Gathering one hundred of the top advisors in the country guarantees I’ll learn something new. It’s not just the presentations happening on the stage - it’s the conversations happening over lunch, the discussions at sponsor booths, the questions and comments being shared with our speakers. I always leave a conference feeling energized by the incredible - and creative! - work of advisors in their practices. And I’m ready to leverage that energy for growth in 2024 and beyond.

If you were at Innovate Summit this week, I’d love to hear YOUR top takeaways. Drop a comment or shoot me a note - and let’s keep the energized learning going!

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And if you’d like to experience all this learning at our next event, watch this space - registration opens for our fall training next month.