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What I Learned at the TD Ameritrade Partnership 2008 Conference

Joel gives us a quick tour of the conference's highlights.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 02/14/2008

I recently attended the TD Ameritrade Partnership 2008 conference and it was well worth the trip. My personal yardstick for a conference is that if I come away with one really good idea, my time was well spent. In this case, I came away with several, so I'll share some with you, even though most are not technology related.

The first thing that struck me at the TD Ameritrade gathering was that sincerity and good intentions go a long way in a relationship. During the past year, TD Ameritrade experienced some setbacks technologically as it sought to migrate advisors from the old TD platform to the new Ameritrade one. It also experienced a few other challenges. While a few advisors voiced concerns, that vast majority I spoke with took the setbacks in stride. Ray Mignone, CFP, the owner of Ray Mignone & Co. in Little Neck, N.Y., was representative of the majority.

"TD Ameritrade has a great service team. What they may have lacked in technology this past year, they more and made up for with their great attitude and their outstanding customer service," he said. "Overall, we are very pleased with TD Ameritrade as our custodian."

Benjamin Tobias, CFP, CPA/PFS, CIMA, president of Tobias Financial Advisors, agreed.

"I had a few service problems with TD Ameritrade during the last year, but because of the sincerity of the employees I dealt with and the can-do attitude of TD Ameritrade's management, I never doubted that my issues would be addressed promptly, and they were," Tobias said. "TD Ameritrade treats me as a partner, and I feel the same way about them."

On a related note, when you identify a customer service problem apologize for any inconvenience and tell your clients what you are going to do to fix it. At the conference, TD Ameritrade CEO Joseph Moglia, COO Fred Tomczyk, and TD Ameritrade Institutional president J. Thomas Bradley Jr. all apologized for any inconvenience to advisors and their clients, but they also told the crowd what the firm was going to do to make things right. The highlight of that discussion was a commitment to spend $150 million on technology and service upgrades.

Mignone also found it reassuring that Tomczyk was familiar what advisors need. "He mentioned statements and mutual fund postings, two hot topics for advisors," Mignone said. "The fact that a guy at his level knows the issues I'm concerned about gives me confidence that they will be addressed. I'm optimistic about the future."

Almost ever advisor would love to command the loyalty and respect that Mignone and Tobias have for TD Ameritrade. Perhaps we can all learn something from the way TD Ameritrade's management has handled adversity recently.

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