The 2022 Excell Conference was hosted in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. I want to take a moment to thank the FinServ Foundation for awarding me the scholarship to attend a fantastic event. The financial services industry is evolving and changing as new regulations are passed and new technologies are provided to help financial planners offer the best recommendations to clients. The Excell Conference will have more than 1,500 advisors covering the 37th Excell Conference. The conference had numerous seminars to choose from, and each attendee had the opportunity to select which panels were most important to them and their success. The keynote speakers at the event provided inspiration and empowerment while providing their expertise in the industry. The event offers opportunities to network and meet like-minded individuals.

The Excel Conference offers three days of…


  •   15+ Keynote Speakers
  •   Impactful Philanthropy Campaigns
  •   Industry Thought Leaders
  •   Team-Building and Motivation


  •   1500+ Attendees
  •   3 Networking Receptions
  •   On-Site Bookstore and Signings
  •   Industry-Leading Vendors and Expo Hall
  •   Social Media Community


  •   25+ Breakout Sessions
  •   Live Podcast Recordings
  •   Student Track
  •   Available CE Credits


(Information was from the Excell Conference Website).


Day 1 – Opportunities and Introduction to the Financial Services Industry


On Tuesday, September 13th, there were several networking events throughout the day for professionals and students to engage and meet one another. The day began with a breakfast brunch, where students and professionals met to network and share ideas. Afterward, students and I had the opportunity to participate in a community activity that involved making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packing them with other goodies to feed the homeless. The students and I were helping Project 4 Humanity, a Non-Profit Organization that provides meals to families in need. This activity allowed me to network with other students in the FinServ Program, work as a team to pack the meals, and create an impact in the Las Vegas community.


After the service project, the students and I had the opportunity to receive a warm welcome and introduction to the industry by Caleb Silver (Editor-in-Chief & SVP of Content, Investopedia (moderator)), Michael Lane (Head of iShares, U.S. Wealth Advisory at BlackRock), Jamie Hopkins (Managing Partner of Wealth Solutions, Carson Group), and Dr. Julie Ragatz (Vice President of NextGen & Advisor Development, Carson Group). The panel began with a discussion about the financial service industry involving a range of investment, lending, and management of money and assets. Furthermore, there are many options and career paths to take in the financial services industry. The discussion of values is essential in the industry because you need to find a business that aligns with your mission and vision. You will also be happy in the firm you work for and should not be defined by that firm’s salary and benefits packages. Finally, research before any interview or meeting with a firm because by conducting research, you will know what the firm stands for and whether it aligns with your values.


The next part of the panel discussion was to have an open mind and never underestimate your role at the firm; your 20s are the opportunity to learn from your failures. Never underestimate your job regardless of how much you make, and you are happy with your work at the firm. Also, research before accepting the first job offer because it might not be the best option. Everyone makes mistakes, and your 20s are the best time to learn and grow in the profession because everyone understands that everyone has struggled some time in their life. Always say yes to opportunities that align with your values and will help you succeed in your career. Finally, learn to embrace and overcome your failures because failing provides an opportunity to shape the type of person you want to become.


In the evening, a welcome reception was held as a networking event and allowed students to meet the sponsors participating in the Excell Conference. The event’s sponsors ranged from fintech companies, RIAs, and financial firms.  The event sponsors that were there during the community hub included:


  • BlackRock
  • Fidelity
  • Conversus
  • Charles Schwab
  • Cetera
  • State Street SPDR
  • RCX Capital Group
  • Moelis & Company
  • Nationwide
  • Eaton Vance
  • Apollo
  • Envestnet
  • Financial Independence Group
  • Orion
  • iCapital Network
  • Swan Global Investments
  • Asset Map
  • Wisdom Tree
  • Fairway
  • Day Hagan
  • FMT Solutions
  • Pontera
  • Redtail
  • Invesco
  • Vanguard
  • Riskalyze
  • Lord Abbett
  • Altruist
  • Vestwell
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Ethic
  • SPDRs
  • FP alpha
  • White-Glove
  • Jackson
  • One America
  • Ameritas
  • Copytalk
  • TRI State Capital
  • Mick Law P.C.
  • Holistiplan
  • Seeds Investors
  • The American College
  • Females Finance
  • J Connelly
  • FPA (Financial Planning Association)
  • YCharts
  • Healthpilot


(List of sponsors was pulled from the Excell Conference website)


I had an opportunity to meet representatives from these firms, learn about their company, try out the software, and network. The key takeaway from the community hub is that I created a list of software I want to try and use for my future practice. I realized that the software met my requirements of being easy to use for the client and me, having great features and navigation, and being affordable.


20220915_131510Day 2 – Gratitude and Mindset


I started my day on Wednesday, September 14th, with the Gratitude Breakfast. During the breakfast, Chris Schembra, a philosopher, question asker, and facilitator, gave a Gratitude Through Hard Times seminar. Also, I received a copy of his book, Gratitude Through Hard Times, which blends philosophy and modern-day science to teach how the principles of gratitude can be used to help people get through their hard times. The takeaways from the seminar were to start to appreciate the things that matter the most and not focus on the small things that don’t bring you happiness; the difference between ingratitude vs. gratitude is that gratitude allows you to be thankful for the things you do have. Ingratitude is the lack of proper appreciation or thanks for something or someone. The question that Schembra asked the audience to consider: If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be? I spent all morning thinking about the people I haven’t thanked enough that I decided to create a list and contact them to thank them personally for everything they have done for me.


The next panel I attended was The Power of FinPsy, which Dr. Preston D. Cherry presented. Dr. Cherry took a deep dive into the FinPsy Concept and exemplified the benefits of the planner, your practice, and your client. Dr. Cherry also explains the best methods to help facilitate client communications and establish trust. Why should planners consider FinPsy? FinPsy is not just about the money, financial planning is more about the money, and the financial services industry is more than just the products. Finally, he mentions that money brings numerous emotions, such as stress, confidence, uncertainty, and satisfaction.


The make-up of FinPsy is:

  •     Behavioral Finance
  •     Education
  •     Financial Planning
  •     Human Services
  •     Clinical Psy
  •     Cognitive Psy
  •     Financial Therapy


After The Power of FinPsy seminar, I attended The Power of an Unbreakable Mindset by Marques Ogden, CEO of Ogden Ventures LLC. Ogden presents how he pulled himself together and pursued new opportunities to help others succeed. During the panel, he tells his story about his darkest hours and how he overcame failure and bankruptcy to become a better person tomorrow. Furthermore, he explains to positive and negative thinkers that positive thinkers are more empowered than negative thinkers. Negative thinkers are often paralyzed by doubt and fears that these emotions prevent them from taking action to progress toward their goals. Also, he mentions that “if you don’t handle success, success will handle you.” Ogden says there are three types of mindsets in his panel: fixed mindset, growth mindset, and victory mindset. A fixed mindset is when people see their qualities as fixed traits that cannot change. A growth mindset is when people believe their success depends on the time and effort they put into their goals. A victory mindset is when people believe in their abilities to know that they can achieve the win (set out to do what they want to accomplish).  Finally, your mindset starts with you.


Marques Ogden Mindset Acronym


M – Mentally

I – Invested

N – Never -Ending

D – Determination

S – Sets

E – Expanding

T – Talent


Finally, the second day of the Excell Conference ended with a networking event at Beer Park on the second floor of the Paris Hotel.


Day 3 – The Industry and The Legacy of Tomorrow


September 15th will be the third and final day of the Excell Conference. The previous two days had many networking events, panels from industry leaders from various backgrounds, and many vital takeaways the audience can apply to their practice or business.  


The day began with breakfast in the Excell Community Hub, where students could network and meet with professionals while having a meal. Afterward, all the attendees went to the general session with various panels. For example, in The Power of Being the OTHER in the Room, Lauren Simmons, Multifaceted entrepreneur, Author, Personal Finance Expert, Global Motivational Speaker, and Producer, shares her experience being on the trading floor and work environments and provides strategies for using what makes your different as the power to be the best in your role. Simmons also provides an in-depth discussion about how corporations should be open to changes and diversity.


Another seminar during the general session was The Surprising Path to the Good Life by Daniel Pink discusses a new approach to working smarter and living better by examining regret. He explains that everyone has regrets and explains the “No Regrets” philosophy that handling our regrets strategically is one of the most powerful ways to develop effective decisions, elevate performance, and deepen the sense of meaning. During the panel, I learned the four core regret that includes:


  •     Foundation – Stability
  •     Boldness – Growth
  •     Moral – Goodness
  •     Connection – Love


Also, I learned the 3-step process to convert existing regrets into tools to boost performance and happiness and build a foundation for yourself.


The final general session for the morning was Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash our Power, and Change the Game by Abby Wambach, Olympian, Activist, and Author. Wambach shares her experience and advice from the book Wolfpack. Discussing how she learned to lead from the bench, turn failure into motivation, and bring it all together for success. Wambach’s passion and perseverance helped her overcome challenges after leaving professional soccer and serve as a role model for individuals and companies to succeed.


After the Community Hub Lunch and later in the afternoon, I attended the FinServ Foundation Track session, divided into three parts. The first part, Professional Pathway Panel by Dr. Julie Ragatz (Moderator), Mike Grecco (BlackRock), Jacqueline Campbell (Alexander Legacy), and Dr. Preston Cherry (Concurrent FP & UW-GB), discussed the various pathways in the financial services industry. The speakers discuss having a good work ethic, showing up with pen and paper to take notes, coming prepared, following up, and recognizing that you need to learn from your failures. Also, be hungry and exhibit a work ethic that no one can complete. In the second part, The Value of Mentorship, Dr. Julie Ragatz (Moderator), Erin Wood (Carson Group), Dr. Craig Lemoine (the University of Illinois, and Toussaint Bailey (Uplifting Capital), discussed the value of mentorship. A mentor will help you gain support, knowledge, advice, wisdom, and guidance towards your career goals. However, the mentee has to put in the work and value the mentor’s time because they are putting their reputation out there for you and time from their busy schedule. In the third part, What Would You Do If You Were Starting Now, Ron Carson (CEO & Founder of Carson Group) and Aaron Schaben (President of Carson Group) discussed what you can do for yourself today. Carson mentions the steps of taking care of yourself, which include:


  •     Workout
  •     Eat Well
  •     Sleep Well
  •     Take care of your health (get your annual checkup).
  •     Give up the balance in the short run to have balance in the long run.
  •     Read often
  •     Be the change the industry needs
    • Show up and put up the work
    • Help someone else once you become successful, and never ask for anything in return.
  •     Have options and choose the firm that wants you to grow.


Finally, to wrap up the Excell Conference, there was a closing night reception in the Boulevard Pool for everyone to enjoy food, have fun, and have a final opportunity ki to network.


Final Thoughts


The last few days of the Excell Conference allowed me to meet and network with professionals in the industry, listen to industry leaders about the trends of the business and left me pondering what I’m doing now and where I want to be tomorrow. I learned from speakers various topics such as retirement and planning, marketing, leadership, investments, and technology. Finally, for students that are considering applying for the FinServ Foundation Program, I recommend applying and getting the opportunity to attend the annual Excell Conference because you never know what opportunity may be waiting for your career.


About the Author: 

Rafael Nieves Rios is a graduate student at California Lutheran University, graduating in 2024. He is studying for an MBA in Financial Planning.