As Covid cancels industry events, advisers weigh attending what’s left
FPA is cancelled, but Morningstar is still on track. The industry is on edge over how to proceed in the most responsible fashion possible.
The daily ebb and flow of the status of the Covid-19 pandemic, accompanied by rolling debates over the efficacy of the vaccines, has left many of the financial services industry’s road warriors in holding patterns as they wait to see which events are still on the schedule and which might not be worth the risk.
Vance Barse, founder of Your Dedicated Fiduciary, is having second and third thoughts about attending next month’s Inside ETFs conference in Hollywood, Florida, where he is scheduled to speak.
The latest snag for Barse, who is currently based in the Dallas area, is that his wife and one of his young children are currently Covid-positive, which has given him a fresh perspective on the virus.
“The past 96 hours of my life have been emotionally, psychologically and spiritually exhausting,” said Barse, who is now staying in a hotel near his home with his other child.
Barse, who was on the road as recently as two weeks ago and has traveled with precautions through much of the pandemic, has traced his wife and child’s Covid exposure to a recent family gathering. But having the virus inside his home has him rethinking his future travel plans.
“My view on attending conferences has changed; I’m more cautious about attending large in-person gatherings,” he said. “The data show the people that have had the vaccine are still testing positive and still getting Covid.”
Inside ETFs, which is paired with the Inside WealthStack conference, is among the scheduled in-person events still on track for 2021.
Lindsay Tis, brand strategy director at Informa Connect, which is the organizer of Inside ETFs and Inside WealthStack, said all attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.
A number of events scheduled for the fall, including T3 and the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference, have already been cancelled, and the Invest in Others event on Sept. 22 has been converted to a virtual format, due to the risk of the delta variant.
Others, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors’ fall national conference, the Morningstar Investment Conference, Insider’s Forum and the DeVoe M&A Succession Summit, are still set to occur as in-person events this fall.
“There are plenty of advisers that want to attend and are comfortable with getting together in person,” said Stacy Orff, managing director of DeVoe & Co.
She said the M&A event on Oct. 28-29 is expected to attract about 150 attendees and will follow the mandates of the host city, San Francisco, which requires proof of vaccination for attendance.
“We have a larger-than-necessary ballroom for the size of our event so that we can create social distancing at and between tables,” Orff added.
Morningstar spokesperson Landon Hudson said the company’s big annual event is still on for Sept. 22-24, but “we will continue to adjust based on recommendations provided by the CDC and city of Chicago.”
In addition to enhanced protocols for health and safety, Morningstar is offering attendees the option to attend in person, digitally or virtually, which allows for networking and the ability to connect with other attendees in real time.
At InvestmentNews, the Sept. 21 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards event is still on track for an in-person gathering, as are the Retirement Income Summit in Naples, Florida, in November, and the Women Adviser Summits in Naples and New York later this year.
While the FPA canceled its national event scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, FPA’s Houston chapter is still planning an in-person event in late September, which appeals to Marco Rimassa because he can drive from his home in nearby Katy, Texas.
The president of CFE Financial said this will be his first in-person event since before the pandemic.
“The situation is fluid, and everybody has to make decisions about what’s safe and what’s not,” Rimassa said. “In this case, I’m not staying overnight, and I do intend to wear a mask and be socially distanced. The in-person part is an important part of this type of organization.”
It’s a similar story for Tricia Rosen, principal at Access Financial Planning.
Rosen, who’s based in Andover, Massachusetts, plans to drive to the Napfa conference in Boston in mid-October. “I live locally so I don’t need to get on a plane or stay in a hotel,” she said.
But Rosen does not plan to attend the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners conference in Atlanta later this year because that would involve air travel and an overnight stay.
Barbara O’Neill, chief executive of Money Talk, is based in Ocala, Florida, and is opting to tape a video presentation for her speaking spot at the FinCon 2021 event slated for late September in Austin, Texas.
O’Neill hasn’t attended an in-person industry event since before the pandemic.
Then there’s Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications, who is ramping up for a full slate of events this fall after not having traveled to a conference since February 2020.
“Any large event right now gives me pause, especially when it is primarily indoors, and even more so when there are not good local protocols for health and safety,” she said. “States that I’d be especially cautious to travel to right now include Texas, Florida and Arkansas.”
For the time being, at least, Swift is slated to attend six events from September through November in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Las Vegas, and back to New York.
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