HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Businesses should not fear disruption but instead embrace it.
That was the key message that Jack Brennan, Vanguard's chairman emeritus and senior advisor, tried to convey to bank advisors and program managers gathered at the BISA convention here on Thursday.
Brennan's pep talk aimed to calm fears surrounding the Labor Department's impending fiduciary rule as well as the competitive challenges posed by automated advice providers. The new disruptions, he said, are in fact opportunities for businesses to up their game.
In a bid to rally the audience, Brennan shared quotes to illustrate the importance of addressing disruptors, rather than ignoring them and risk turning into "disruptees."
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there," he said, citing Will Rogers. Brennan held up several organizations that were "run over" for failing to react to change. United Way, once a leader in charitable fundraising, was overtaken by "Go Fund Me" and other peer-to-peer crowdfunding organizations. Uber, the taxi hail service, is disrupting the taxi business, while Stanford is gaining ground on Harvard, the so-called new "Stanford of the East."
Don't ever look at competitors as merely "a curiosity," as one of Brennan's industry rivals once referred to Vanguard long ago. "Everyone," he said, "is a competitor."
He urged the audience to challenge their preconceptions and institutional dogma.
"If you like the status quo, you shouldn't be in this business," he said.
He encouraged financial institutions to make "respectful disagreements" part of their core values and to find the right partners with whom to serve clients.
He concluded his talk on a decidedly upbeat note, saying that it's never been a better time to be in the advice business. "What you do is vitally important to millions and millions of people," he said, explaining that what they do has "never been more needed."