Six thousand people have descended upon San Diego’s Convention Center to attend LPL Financial’s annual advisor conference. The Focus Conference is aimed at technology that augments practice management and allows financial advisors to “focus” more on dealing with clients.

Picture-perfect 75 degree weather pushes and pulls blue-blazered advisors between the caverns of the exhibit hall—where open areas featuring speakers on myriad topics blend into exhibit booths filled with sales materials of one fund or another and eager reps coaxing you to stop and stay awhile—and the cobbled streets of the Gaslamp district across the train tracks, where hucksters still ask you if you want your picture taken for a fee.

San Diego is an apt place for a conference of this sort. It’s a weird blend of old and new: an active retirement community mixed with college kids.
The Focus agenda is like that in its own way: “Retirement Planning for Today’s Millionaires”; “Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia”; and “Estate Planning Essentials” are featured discussions, alongside “Enhanced Trading”; “Leverage Technology”; and “Information Security.”

The demographic may be squarely set on high-net-worth retirement folks, but the means to reaching and servicing them is different.

Tom Gooley, LPL’s managing director of service, trading and operations used his main stage appearance Monday to drive home the firm’s strides in technology offerings and workflow efficiencies. Particular attention, he says, has been waged on quicker response tools, alerts and tracking customer requests.

The rise of robo-advisors may explain the emphasis on such digital accomplishments. Indeed, the formidable exhibit hall space occupied by LPL’s Digital Square could not be missed. But LinkedIn’s presence might—if JP Morgan Asset Management hadn’t made it apart of its booth. There, advisors were made privy to newfangled ways online to augment their presence and even prospect. Smart. And a lot more useful than the usual knickknacks of pens, water bottles and baseball caps littering most of the other booths on display.

I’m waiting for the day when the booths are simply gone, and robots roam.