Seven Questions with Tony Sirianni: Fidelity’s David Canter
Why did you get into the wealth management business?
Great question. I would say that what led me to wealth management is the same thing that keeps me in it – it’s incredibly dynamic on the business side and incredibly impactful on the client side. I started out as a lawyer and as I moved into different legal counsel roles, I was exposed to even more of the business, gaining knowledge about things like operations and practice management. The fact that the industry is constantly evolving and has so many layers was and still is very appealing. And then, when you think about the end-client impact, we’re helping people live the lives they want to – taking care of basic needs, preserving legacies, helping manage through life events. Few industries allow you to reach people on such a personal level. Who wouldn’t want to work in an industry where you can help people to achieve their goals, piece of mind and fulfillment?
In looking at the changes over the last 15 years, which, in your opinion, have been the most damaging to the wealth management business? Conversely, what have been the most exciting and positive?
Technology has certainly helped firms with efficiency so that their advisors can focus on delivering more value to clients and move beyond just money management. We’re very focused on digitizing the client journey and adding digital touchpoints throughout to complement what the advisor does. So, technology doesn’t only empower the advisor. End-clients can interact with their advisory firm anytime, anywhere in an increasingly digital world.
The openness to sharing and solving the industry’s challenges together is very exciting to me. The emergence of study groups and industry events that not only bring people together to network, but also foster an environment of transparency, vulnerability, accountability and curiosity. Recently, Fidelity hosted its second annual Turnkey Asset Management Program Day, where we brought executives from 12 firms together for a state-of-the-state conversation and ideating around what the future of our industry may look like, including what we could learn from what each other was doing today. Wealth management has always been a competitive industry, but competition doesn’t have to come at a cost to community. I believe this new wave of peer-to-peer sharing is what will advance the industry and sustain it.
How has technology advanced this industry?
The biggest thing is that technology has helped firms with efficiency so that their advisors can focus on delivering more value to clients and move beyond just money management. We’re very focused on digitizing the client journey and adding digital touchpoints throughout to complement what the advisor does.
How has your company adapted to address the rapidly changing wealth management landscape?
Innovation is at the heart of Fidelity’s business and is woven into our history. We are focused on establishing next-gen digital platforms, capabilities and people to ensure we’re continuously improving how we serve – and what we offer – our clients. For many of our clients, we’re not only a technology provider, we’re also their business and operations consultants. It’s not just about solutions. We’re providing insights that help clients prepare for and adapt to changes in the wealth management industry and serving as their guide to the increasingly complex RIA ecosystem.
What part of the advisor business will never change?
The focus on relationships. If anything, this will become even more of a differentiator as the industry continues to automate. At the end of the day, this is a relationship business and it will continue to be because finances are personal – and often emotional – so to be successful, we think an advisor must have high emotional intelligence and understand how to build deep relationships, not transactional ones.
What three things differentiate your company from the competition?
First and foremost, the total value that Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions delivers to its clients and our focus on superior service at all points of interaction. In addition to providing industry-leading price improvement and trading execution, our offering includes everything from integrated digital solutions and technology to world-class client service to strategic consulting and support in areas that are most pressing to firms today, such as recruiting and mergers and acquisitions.
Second, Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions is part of something much bigger. Our clients have access to specialists across Fidelity on topics such as capital markets, portfolio construction, charitable giving and retirement planning, which allows them to provide one of the broadest set of services in the industry to their clients.
Lastly, as a private company, we can take the long-term view without having to focus on the cycle of quarterly earnings, which allows us to continue to invest in the business to research and develop new capabilities, improve and lower the costs of our products and services, and maintain high levels of client service. This positions us to help clients seamlessly evolve with the wealth management industry.
What advice would you give to someone just entering the wealth management business?
Be prepared for change and know how to differentiate and add value. We’ve seen significant change – and growth – in the wealth management ecosystem. Not only has the number of firms grown, but there has been a proliferation of third-party solutions providers and new capital sources. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of convergence – whether that’s convergence of the broker-dealer and RIA models or convergence of firms within the RIA segment. The wealth management environment that we’re in today will not be the same in ten years, so new entrants need to be adaptable to change. I mentioned it earlier, but I believe technology is going to put even more of a focus on human-delivered value. Convergence will only add emphasis to this. Learning to differentiate and add value will be critical, but so will the ability to articulate it.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of your day job?
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by this, but music is something I’m very passionate about and I play guitar daily. My favorite band is The Grateful Dead, so I play their songs often. Sanjiv Mirchandani, the head of Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, and I are actually in a band called Hi-Fidelity. I am also a big fan of running – it’s how I start my day.
David is a keynote panelist at AdvisorHub’s November 19th Industry in Transition Summit in NYC — Learn more.
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