Despite the snowstorm raging across the United States, the TD Ameritrade Institutional national conference was packed with a standing-room only crowd for its first official session in San Diego on Thursday.

(Check out Ruthie's live tweets from the San Diego conference.)

Green strobe lights and techno music woke up the early morning crowd, while five screens simultaneously showed a live video feed as Tom Bradley, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional, bound onto the stage with his feel-good message: “Your businesses are doing extremely well. That’s because you have focused on putting the client first.”

The crowd cheered as statistics flashed across the screen to support the message that the registered investment advisor industry is thriving.

Assets industrywide have increased 93% as of Feb. 2 from its trough in March 2009. The independent RIA channel is the fastest growing channel in wealth management today, according to Bradley, yet many clients are still hurting, especially those who switched most of their assets to cash in 2009 right before the stock market turned around.

A good sign is that more RIAs are adding and retaining clients, Bradley said, and independent RIAs are also beating out the wirehouses in terms of assets.

One of the biggest challenges independent RIAs have is holding and training employees, which is why TD Ameritrade announced Thursday that it has launched an advisor education center. Another new product TD will launch is a mobile app for the iPad in April.

The truth is, no matter how well RIAs are doing there is always room for improvement as an organization, said Fred Tomcyzk, TD Ameritrade’s president and CEO, and the same hold true for TD Ameritrade.

The firm plans to offer more cash management services heading into the fall, he said.

“Anything you can do at a bank you can do with us,” Tomczyk said. “Momentum is a beautiful thing. Once you lost it, it takes a long time to get it back.”

As for the economy, Tomczyk said he anticipates interest rates won’t change for the next 12 to 18 months, at least until unemployment comes down quit a bit. But he sees sentiment changing. The consumer is coming back, yet the long-term investor is still fairly conservative: “There rarely is a recovery that is just a straight line.”