Morningstar Takes A Leadership Role In Financial Planning Research Conferences

Morningstar Takes A Leadership Role In Financial Planning Research Conferences

Shawn Brayman, Director of Financial Planning Methodology, Morningstar

I know not everyone would rate academic conferences as one of their must do activities, but as 2020 winds to a close, I am thrilled with the role Morningstar played in continuing traditional thought leadership and picking up the mantel from PlanPlus/FinaMetrica. Evidence-based solutions driven by great research is the common cultural thread that was the foundation of becoming part of the Morningstar family this year.

For over 30 years, the Academy of Financial Services and its journal, the Financial Services Review, has been the primary association for academics in the field of financial planning. Over the past few years, the US CFP Board (for Certified Financial planners) has stepped up with a conference and a new journal, as have FPA Australia. Exciting! The AFS Conference was held September 30 to October 2nd in conjunction with FPA in the USA.

David Blanchett, PhD, CLU, ChFC®, CFP®, CFA®, Head of Retirement at Morningstar Investment Management, was a Rockstar with a total of 5 papers and 4 presentations over the three days of the conference. Although all the papers/presentations were great, I most enjoyed the one on Estimating The End of Retirement where David continued to build on a legacy of challenging many of the assumptions we find applied by financial planners without appropriate consideration.

  • Foreign Revenue Exposure: A New World of Diversification
  • Guaranteed Income: The Forgotten Household Asset
  • Estimating The End of Retirement
  • Market Volatility and the Value of Personalized Investment Solutions with Dr. Zhikun Liu, Ph.D., CFP
  • Portfolio delegation and 401(k) plan participant responses to COVID-19 with Michael Finke; Jonathan Reuter

I would also like to call out Morningstar’s Samantha Lamas, behavioral researcher and co-authors Ryan Murphy, Head of Decision Sciences for Morningstar Investment Management and Ray Sin, former behavioral scientist at Morningstar, who presented their award-winning research Goals-Based Financial Planning: How Simple Lists Can Overcome Cognitive Blind Spots, which we covered in the last newsletter. Sarah Newcomb, Director of Behavioral Sciences at Morningstar also presented a great paper on How People Pay Attention to ESG Information When Making Long-Term Investment Decisions, which was co-authored with Ryan Murphy.

There were a number of great papers, including an interesting one, Consistency of Financial Risk Aversion Estimates by Dr John Grable and co-author Eun Jin Kwak, both from the University of Georgia. Dr. Grable is one of the financial planning and risk tolerance communities most renowned researchers and anyone in the space has referenced much of his ground-breaking work.

During each one-hour presentation there were usually three or four different research papers presented along with chat-based suggestions, questions and answers. Initially, I was concerned about how a virtual academic conference would work out, but I was very pleased overall.

One of my favourite sessions included a paper, Fintech Influences on Financial Planning: A Global Perspective by Dr. Cora Lynne Pettipas, a Canadian presenting from London. Cora currently works with the HSBC Global Financial Planning team and Platinum sponsor of the conference for the past two years. One of the Best Paper award winners also shared Robo financial advisers: risk, information, decision style and initial trust by Mustafa Nourallah from Sweden. The third session was from Australia by the winner of the Early Career Award winner, Dr. Dianne Johnson who presented Challenges and Opportunities for Young People of Disruptive FinTech. It was a great experience to have excellent research from around the world in one session!

The conference was not all simply research papers, Karyn DeJong, Director of Product Marketing for Morningstar’s financial planning product team participated in a great panel on Fintech in the Classroom. As the VP Marketing for the AFS, I had the honour of presenting a variety of awards and recognitions including a second Best Paper Award, sponsored by Morningstar – Analyzing Retirement Savings and Households Loan by Brian Walsh.

Morningstar had also sponsored a Best Paper Award for the Financial Planning Research Journal in Australia, where our own Nicki Potts, Director of Product Management, was one of the judging committee members. The award was split between two papers:

  • The conflict between financial decision making and Indigenous Australian culture by Suzanne Wagland, Sharon Taylor
  • Financial literacy education with aboriginal people: The importance of culture and context by Levon Blue

In Australia, the Personal Finance and Investment Symposium and accompanying Financial Planning Academic Forum just completed November 23 and 24th (also virtual) with a great cross-section of primary research papers covering topics from fintech, value of advice, the impact of COVID on digital provision of financial planning, and more.

So, for those of you with a yearning for great research, fast adoption of virtual academic conferences has come as a strange blessing. It is no longer necessary to spend 20+ hours on an airplane to Australia when virtual access is at your fingertips, and the research remains just as awesome.

If you are interested in any of the research by our teams here at Morningstar, feel free to reach out to us. If you have not already, subscribe to some of the excellent academic journals in the space. Finally, look forward to the next opportunity to join some of your friends from Morningstar at a great academic conference – virtual or face-to-face. I hope to see you soon!

I have been using FinaMetrica for over 17 years for onboarding new clients. They like the extensive value of the reports; but what we appreciate is the innovations in technology, the value of the client-facing materials and the development of the life-long client relationships as I get to really know their behavioral tendencies. FinaMetrica has assisted me in building a very successful practice and we highly recommend it for any advisor who wants to enhance the overall value of their client relationships.

Ron Wilkinson - Portland, Oregon, USA
Ron Wilkinson - Portland, Oregon, USA