From Smoking Jackets to Freakonomics: AdventConnect 2011 and the Advent-Black Diamond Merger

It felt like the old days at the AdventConnect 2011 Conference in Boston last week—with a charged, high energy atmosphere and attendance levels that broke all previous records. No doubt, the excitement created by the Advent purchase of Black Diamond was a contributing factor to the conference’s success. 

Conference Highlight: The Fireside Chat

The conference was highlighted by the Fireside Chat on Tuesday the 14th, when Pete Hess (President of Advent Software), Reed Colley (Founder of Black Diamond Performance Reporting) and Anthony Sperling (General Manager of Advent’s Asset Management Group) donned Red Velvet smoking jackets and sat by a roaring fake fire to discuss the merger between their respective companies. It was quite the sight—the three of them sitting there regally, like scions of a gentlemen’s club, with Anthony sporting a pipe no less. It was very obvious to attendees that there is a great synergy between Pete, Reed and Anthony, as if they were old college buddies who had gotten together. This synergy was also evident the day earlier, during the opening remarks at the conference, when the three key players shared the stage together along with Todd Gottula, Sr Vice President & General Manager, Global Accounts and Tamale and Stephanie DiMarco, Chief Executive Officer. My opinion is that the merger was one of culture as well as profit.

Advent and Black Diamond: Joined at the Altar

There has been a lot of speculation in the press about the marriage between Advent and Black Diamond. But my take-away was that it was a strategic merger for both. Black Diamond has the reputation in the RIA space for being the premier full-service back office reporting system. And now that they’ve added a Rebalancing component, it should further strengthen their presence in the RIA space. Advent, for its part, has the extensive reach across the financial industry to expand on the Black Diamond market presence. Pete mentioned that by third quarter next year, Black Diamond should be able to utilize the ACD feeds, and, by combining these feeds with the account data from ByAllaccounts, will be able to offer RIAs a truly consolidated, holistic way to report on their clients’ assets.

Moving forward, Advent is organizing its management based on the different types of clients served, as opposed to products. This involves Black Diamond focusing on the Advisor space, Anthony Sperling focusing on the Asset Manager space, and Todd Gottula (not present during the Fireside Chat) focusing on the Alternative Hedge Fund Managers and Limited Partnership firms.

The Freakonomics Keynote: Humor and Humility

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, were the keynote speakers on Tuesday and put on a very funny show. They took turns telling stories from their best-selling books. They are two very humble and yet very witty guys. The story about the Economics of Prostitution, in which the prostitute ended up as a guest lecturer in Steven Levitt’s class, left everyone laughing. 

The conference as a whole had the feel of the Advent conferences in the early 2000’s. It made me a bit nostalgic. Those were the days when I was on the Advisor side of the world, and was being wined and dined as a premier client. Today, I am on the vendor side, where, by the end of the day, you need a throat lozenge and a foot massage. But no complaints from me! AdventConnect 2011 was a memorable event—let’s see what they have in store next year.

Additional topics of discussion at the AdventConnect 2011 Conference: 

  • Tax Lot Reconciliation

  • Changes in Electronic Trading

  • Impact of Social Media

  • Impact of New Technology like the iPad and the Smart Phones

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