ICYMI: Howard Tullman Talks Innovation, Storytelling, and Robots at Ascent 2019

In his dynamic keynote address at Orion’s Chicago Ascent 2019 conference on Wednesday, May 8, Howard Tullman commanded a ballroom full of advisors and technology experts to sit up, take notice, and, hopefully, take action.

“Never in human history,” said Tullman, Executive Director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, “has the past been so temporary. The rate of change will never again be as slow as it is today.”

And if you’re reluctant to change, you will get left behind. Tullman used the examples of former giants like Sears and BlackBerry, who were unable to keep up with rapidly transitioning markets and accelerating innovations.

He also made an important distinction between invention and innovation. “Innovation is quicker, easier, and more profitable in almost every case than invention,” he said. It’s about playing small ball: going for base hits and quick scores rather than swinging for the fences.

Innovation, then, doesn’t mean changing your business entirely to do things better. It’s a method of step-by-step, continuous improvement. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you just need to find a better way to use it.

The key, Tullman explained, is forward progress. Think of success like ironing: you move a few steps forward, then go back and smooth things out, over and over.

And in a world where robots are taking over everything from radiology to pizza delivery, advisors need to find a way to use innovation to improve human connections, not replace them.

That means leveraging technology to take care of the non-human portion of financial advising — like billing, reporting, and compliance tedium — and freeing up more time to spend with clients.

People crave connections. That’s why they commit to other people, not to institutions. And as a financial advisor, it’s your job to tell your committed clients a simple story: where they’re going, and how you’re going to help them get there.

The truth is, no advisor wants to spend more time in Excel than with their clients. Think about why you got into financial advising in the first place: was it to reconcile data, or was it to use your expertise to make a difference in other people’s lives?

To stay competitive in today’s market, you need technology and innovation. But it’s how you use them that’s going to set you apart. Meaningful client relationships are the differentiator between you and a robot that can diversify a portfolio in half a second.

And while that may not be possible yet, the future is coming: faster than any of us think, according to Tullman. To future-proof your business, the technology that supports it has to be flexible enough to integrate with what’s coming next, and efficient enough to allow you to use your time to make an impact on your clients.


“All that we really need,” Tullman concluded, “is something to be enthusiastic about.”

Want to get excited about your business again? Talk to Orion today about how our advanced portfolio accounting solutions can save you from the minutiae of data analysis, reporting, billing, compliance, and more, and give you the freedom to do what you love.