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Advisor Insights

The Morningstar Investment Conference Goes Digital!

Here's a rundown of the sessions that Sheryl Rowling is most excited about at this year's conference, which will take place on Sept. 16-17.

With the never-ending coronavirus crisis, we're all pretty sick of virtual meetings--or at least I am. But I feel differently about the Morningstar Investment Conference. For me, the big problem with great conferences is being able to attend all the sessions I want when some sessions conflict or are too early! The MIC has always offered excellent content. Now, I can watch in the comfort of anywhere I want to be, either live or on demand. And I can get up to 17 hours of professional education credits, too--great news!

Of course, there's the economic benefit--no travel costs, no hotel bill, and the entire registration fee is only $149. The best part is there's still time to register.

I am most excited about hearing from the experts on environmental, social, and governance investing, investing during the current COVID/political/low-interest-rate environment, and tips on how best to manage clients' portfolios and emotions. In an ideal world, I'd listen to every session (and I might). But for now, I'm going to focus on the ones that pique my interest the most. Here they are (all times are Central):

The Future of Advice (Wednesday, Sept. 16, 11:10 a.m. to noon). This panel is sure to provide some thought-provoking ideas. Moderated by Christine Benz of Morningstar, the panel includes Cathy Curtis from Curtis Financial Planning, Alan Moore from XY Planning Network, and Don Phillips from Morningstar. Anytime I have a chance to hear the visionary Phillips, I'm in. This all-star panel has me very excited!

An Inflection Point for Sustainable Investing. The Time Is Now. (Wednesday, Sept. 16, noon to 12:45 p.m.). I'm big into ESG (in spite of the Labor Department's impending doomsday ruling for retirement plans), and this session is being led by the founder of Sustainalytics, Michael Jantzi. I can't wait to hear his take on how ESG-focused investing can actually be good for investors and the world.

Sustainability & Investor Success(Thursday, Sept. 17, 9:05-9:55 a.m.). With top experts from Morningstar and Sustainalytics, this session is sure to do a deep dive into the multiple dimensions of ESG investing. As advertised, "Our intention is to enable advisors to use these new frameworks to communicate the sometimes complex and confounding world of ESG to their clients."

Behavioral Science to Help Investors During Strange Times(On Demand). Morningstar's behavioral-science mavens will provide actionable tips to help advisors manage their clients' biases and emotions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, market uncertainty, and economic crisis. As a practicing advisor, this is a critical issue right now. Saying "stay the course" does not always work with panicked clients who want to move to cash.

Annuities: Past, Present, and Future. (On Demand). If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I hate annuities. But sometimes there's a reason for owning one. This panel discussion will surely provide some good tips--especially considering that it will be moderated by David Blanchett (one of my favorite Morningstar speakers and an expert on retirement investing) and also features David Lau of DPL Financial Partners (which offers no-load annuity products).

What Prior Market Crashes Teach Us About This One(On Demand). I've been an advisor forever. I've seen the market's ups and downs, crashes and recoveries. And for each market crash, I've heard the media--and hence, clients--claim that "this time is different." We are in strange times for sure, so how do we provide factual arguments to help clients stay the course? I think this session will be very helpful in practice and am anxious to hear the opinions of Morningstar and CFA Institute Research Foundation experts.

The conference offers a lot more than these particular sessions. And there are Tech Talks! I'll be moderating the Rebalancing & Trading panel on Thursday, Sept. 17 from 2:00-2:30 p.m. Take a look at the schedule and be sure to register.

Sheryl Rowling, CPA, is head of rebalancing solutions for Morningstar and principal of Rowling & Associates, an investment advisory firm. She is a part-time columnist and consultant on advisor-focused products for Morningstar, and she continues to actively run her advisory business, from which Morningstar acquired the Total Rebalance Expert software platform in 2015. The opinions expressed in her work are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.