Conferences Can Be Both Fun & Informative

My partner, Sarah Yakel, and I are currently attending the Inside ETFs conference at The Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Yes, the weather is nice. Yes, the hotel is nice and so are the views. Yes, we are having fun (gasp!). And, yes we are in fact learning about new ideas and strategies that we may employ on behalf of our clients.

Some of our more, let’s say, dry-humored clients (I won’t name any names😊), have suggested we are “taking a vacation on their dime.” I believe that is said mostly in jest, but—believe it or not, I am getting quite a bit of benefit from what I am hearing (and likely will hear)—much of which has great potential to benefit our clients.

It is a very unique opportunity for members of a small, independent firm, like Meridian, to hear ideas from some of the brightest minds in our industry. And, hear from some folks that aren’t in our industry, but give us some thought-provoking presentations and stories that we can take home with us.

Some of the speakers include:

  • Mortimer (Tim) J. Buckley – newly named CEO of Vanguard – his first public talk as Vanguard’s fourth CEO
  • Mohamed El-Erian – Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz and former chair of President Obama’s Global Development Council. And, former CEO of the Harvard Management Company
  • Kevin O’Leary – Founder of many ETFs and builder of The Learning Company that sold for $4 billion. He’s mostly known as “Mr. Wonderful” on CNBC’s The Shark Tank
  • Michael Kitces – Widely known as one of the smartest people thinking about the future of financial advice
  • General Stan McChrystal – retired US Army 4-star general – one of the greatest military leaders in our country
  • Serena Williams – likely the greatest tennis player of all time – she will speak to us tonight before dinner
Photo of a cruise at night

One of the fun parts – view from the short cocktail-hour cruise along Florida’s intracoastal waterway.


While all of the presentations have not necessarily been “fun” per se, most have been interesting and informative. Some takeaways thus far:

  • Bonds have enjoyed the longest bull market in history. That’s being overlooked due to the strength of the global stock market. We must be careful with our bond portfolios, as we view them primarily as a buffer in case of a stock market decline.
  • ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) funds may represent opportunity for growth and already have proven to out perform some major indexes. For example, the S&P 500 Environmental & Socially Responsible Total Return Index outperformed the S&P 500 over the last five years – you are no longer sacrificing returns for “responsible” investing
  • There are a crazy amount of ETFs out there, and more are being created all the time. There is even a Whiskey ETF! Symbol: WSKY – I will admit to helping to contribute to the growth of that sector 😊

The above are just a few of the things we have learned up until now. I am looking forward to the afternoon and evening sessions, as well as the party by the beach tonight! So, we are truly having fun and we are truly learning at the same time.

Categories : Financial Planning

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