“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad… We have serious problems, and we need serious people.” — The American President
As I write this, we’re just about three months out from kicking off Exchange 2024 in Miami, Florida. Obviously I and the whole team here at VettaFi would love it if you came. Over the next 90 days, part of my job will be to explain why I think what we’re doing at Exchange matters, perhaps convincing you that these are conversations you would like to be a part of.
But let’s face it, that’s a tall order.
It’s February 12, 2024. Presidential primaries will have just started, and that will be dominating the airwaves. More than likely, geopolitical concerns will resolve around dueling conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. Inflation and interest rates will still be on the tip of our economic tongues. Other than that, I, like anyone who’s honest, have no idea what will happen between now and then.
But what I can predict with 100% accuracy is that we — the big We, citizens, Americans, investors, advisors, the wealthy, the poor — will still be deeply divided, have historically low faith in every kind of institution, and be just as bad at talking to each other as we are today.
So why in the world would you hop on a plane or in a car and come to Exchange? Because growth can only happen from a firm foundation, and I don’t know about you, but the foundations of Western democratic capitalism seem to be sitting on wet sand at the moment, and I’d like to have a clue what to do about that — as a citizen, as an investor, and frankly, as a person.
That’s what we’re tackling at Exchange: having real conversations about the things that will help us build on sand.
Ground Rules: The How
The ground rules for the conversations at Exchange are pretty simple. And honestly, having these kinds of discussions with real humans may be more “the point” than any specific topic on the agenda:
1: Diagnosis is table stakes. Yes, we have serious problems. But simply pointing out problems and looking for who to blame isn’t only unhelpful, it’s boring. Our goal is to have every session on stage at Exchange have a clear takeaway. Something you, personally, can actually do, work on, learn about, or decide, that will make a difference. Think of it as ending every statement of fact or opinion with “… and thus …”
2: Dialogos: It literally means “through reason” or “through speech,” but at Exchange, what we mean is speaking to be understood, listening to understand. We’re not gathering to gossip about celebrity investors and trade political jabs. We’re there to learn from each other and walk away smarter — and hopefully better connected.
3: Humility and a focus on Positive Sum games. Each of us is an expert in our own fields of endeavor and avocation. Almost by definition, that means you’re not going to hear a lot of short-term policy recommendations, whether that’s Fed policy or foreign policy. What you will hear is people sharing their experiences and expertise, with a goal toward building for the future.
Exchange 2024 Agenda: The What
So what are these serious conversations we’re going to have? Well, one thing’s for sure, the agenda, the speakers, and the ideas are going to evolve right up until the moment you arrive in Miami Beach. How could it be otherwise. But broadly speaking, our hope is that you walk away with clear eyes on a few critical topics:
1: Geopolitics. I’m not a geopolitical strategist, and chances are, neither are you. I’m also not a policymaker, legislator, judge, or diplomat. And chances are, neither are you. But you know who is? Folks like Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report, who writes some of the most cogent nonpartisan analysis on U.S. politics you’ll find. Or RIchard Haass, who spent a career on the front lines of American diplomacy, has written passionately about the value of citizenship, and currently serves as president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is tirelessly working to find peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. The Point: You can’t build without understanding your environment.
2: Markets for Real Investors. Are you tired of everyone saying the same things about interest rates, equity valuations, and the 60/40 portfolio? So are we. We’ll be announcing a tremendous slate of legendary investors and rising stars over the coming weeks. We’re asking them to think beyond the next quarter and to address the big issues. From bitcoin to bonds, we’ll cover the big questions. Our hope is you come away with an investment idea or two. But we really hope you gain a significantly increased sense of curiosity and confidence as you help build client portfolios. The Point: Markets are our tools. We better understand which ones are sharp.
3: The Role of the Advisor. If money is power, then wealth is potential energy. And advisors — you all — are the most important influence on how that energy gets transformed back into the world. That means knowing your clients really well. But it also means really understanding who YOU are in the client relationship. Neil Bage from Shaping Wealth will help open the conference with a framework for providing genuine human-centric advice, Carson Coaching will lead a three-part workshop on how to use your advisor DNA to power your growth. We’ll round that out with topic-specific discussions on real issues facing advisors. These include developing family-office level services for the .1%, building practices in historically underserved communities, and managing the internal challenges of mutligenerational families and practices. The Point: You can’t build something if you don’t know what kind of builder you are.
4: Envisioning the Future of Finance: I’ll be back with a crew of iconoclasts and big thinkers to spend 100 minutes imagining the future of finance. Last year’s session delved into the core topics of the polycrisis, asking how we as individuals can improve our filters in a chaotic world. This year, we’ll be focusing on how the institution of capitalism survives in a world of intuitional decay, looking at everything from demographic headwinds to payment systems. The Point: Nobody should build a house on a barrier reef.
5: Brass-tacks Truth Telling: There’s a lot of noise in investing. And there’s a lot of noise in the wealth management business — after all, it’s where the money is. Throughout the agenda, we’ll be adding discussions that separate the real from the hype. Case in point: We’ve got Jason Pereira talking about the very real, very now use cases for AI in his own advisory practice, with live demonstrations and specific takeaways that could turbocharge your daily workflow. But we’ll also address the headlines directly in our session on “the hotness” — where we separate the real from the hype on headline-grabbing themes like AI-stockpicking, ESG and crypto. The Point: Sometimes there are better ways of doing things; sometimes, the old ways work best.
So What, Big Deal
“But Dave!” I hear you in my head. “Just show me the agenda!”
Well, you can see the always-updating agenda on the Exchange website, but you can also stay tuned here (or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter). Over the next few months, I’ll be writing up pretty much every session from the event as we flesh it out — interviewing notable speakers, laying out background, and jumping into some rabbit holes.
My hope is that by the time we land in Miami, you’ll all have not just a good idea of what to expect on stage, but a list of questions, challenges, and a primary dilemma of how to spend your time.
Consider being part of the conversation at Exchange. I hope you’ll find it interesting and challenging, but I guarantee you won’t be bored.
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