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Friday, November 16, 2012

Schwab Impact 2012 Ends...With Alan Alda

Reported by Tommy Fernandez

It was a financial industry mega fete, a carnival and occasional circus in which the asset management industry displayed their fealty to the industry's emerging masters-- the financial advisor.

During a rousing four days at Chicago's McCormick Place West, roughly 3,000 attendees, including advisors, mutual fund execs and a gaggle of vendors networked, laughed, pitched and made deals and ate and drank far too much.

The extravaganza came Thursday night when the financial mob of 3,000 was bused to Chicago's sprawling Navy Pier, where the investment counselors hobnobbed, drank, ate london broil, shrimp, deep dish pan pizza, Chicago style hotdogs and had gourmet sundaes made to order. There was even a classic lime soda called Green River. As the financial professionals networked and made jokes about their golf games, at least two bands played everything from Top 40 hits to Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue."

The event was punctuated by educational seminars and keynote sessions featuring a galaxy of celebrities and financial bigwigs. X Prize founder Peter Diamandis lectured attendees on how to tap into the exponentially growing global tech revolution, while Harley Davidson CEO, president and chairman Keith Wandell discussed how he helped the dream motorcycle manufacturer embrace rapidly changing markets. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Council of Foreign Affairs President Richard Haas discussed the challenges and opportunities of the changing world order.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, discussed the dangers of the country's elephantine $16 trillion debt. Both veteran politicians had the audience rolling in the aisles as both joked on the challenges of proselytizing budget and tax reform.

"We've outraged practically everyone in the country," joked Simpson. "And those small pockets we haven't offended yet-- we'll get to them"

Each of the speeches were punctuated by grand cinema style computer graphics projected on a giant screen behind the stage, featuring again, sweeping cinematic style music reminiscent of 70s space operas.

The final presentation featured Hawkeye himself, Alan Alda, who was a replacement for legendary former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who had to beg off two weeks before.

Alda waxed poetic about messages of communicating personally, gained from a lifetime of experience of acting and public speaking, punctuated by a near-death experience involving a severely ill intestine during the filming of a science documentary series in Chile.

"Whenever I was talking somewhere where I had no business being, I could always bring something personal," he said.

Case in point, one of his earliest jobs trying to make ends meet before breaking through as an actor, Alda sold mutual funds. For six months, he joked, he was his only customer, until he met one potential client with whom he was able to make a personal connection and could truly understand her needs.

"I learned that it was much about just helping that person," he said. "That's when I learned I really had something to offer."

The next Schwab Impact convention will be held in Washington DC in November 2013. 

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