99 Takeaways from the Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit 2018

Riskalyze fearless investing summit

If there is one other thing that Aaron Klein does well, besides building a successful software company, it’s running a conference. Last year’s client conference in Lake Tahoe was a smashing success, so expectations were high for The Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit 2018 held in San Antonio, TX.

We really shouldn’t have been worried at all.

This year’s conference blew the doors off the Marriott Riverwalk hotel, which was filled to capacity with 600+ advisors plus partners and an unusually large number of Riskalyzers (the nickname for their employees) who were busy staffing breakout training sessions for all aspects of their products.

Everyone seemed genuinely excited to be attending what could easily have been mistaken for a Tony Robbins seminar.

Did I mention that attendees were excited? Especially that guy in the front row with his laptop out. He’s Mr. High Energy.

The week kicked off with the Institutional Partner Roundtable that brought together 30+ representatives of Riskalyze’s broker-dealer customers and asset manager partners. Some of the firms participating were BlackRock, PIMCO, AXA Advisors, LPL Financial, Capital Group, and Fidelity, to name a few.

Cryptocurrency & Blockchain

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth, speak at a number of conferences and he always brings the house down with his no holds barred take on Wall Street and the financial media. But this time was different. He still held nothing back, but this presentation was a straight-up primer on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

This happens to be an area where I have done a lot of research, some writing (on my blog Blockchain Today) and I’m also an advisor for a startup in the space (Arba Tokens).  So, I could tell that Brown did his homework and is well-versed in the underlying concepts behind crypto and its potential to disrupt the current financial infrastructure.

Brown quoted Howard Marks, the co-chairman of distressed debt investor Oaktree Capital Management, who said “Bitcoin is not an investment, it’s a trade.” The billionaire investor also made reference to the “Greater Fool Theory” — an argument that explains an asset’s price not by its intrinsic value, but via the expectations of market participants.

Riskalyze Product Announcements

There were a number of new features announced that enhanced the overall Riskalyze product suite.

Investment Analytics

Riskalyze has been spending heavily to build out their portfolio analytics functionality as an extension of their core risk assessment process. This is part of what can only be seen as a long-term plan to keep advisors inside their ecosystem from their first interaction with a prospect all the way through to account opening.

This week they announced Riskalyze GPA, a new metric designed to measure risk/reward efficiency of a security or portfolio.  According to Klein, this metric was created to answer advisor questions such as “How do I prove to a prospect that my Risk 65 portfolio is better than theirs?” and “How can I tell which investment is better if both have the same Risk Number?”

My first impression of GPA is mixed. Do advisors need another scoring mechanism? Risk Number, GPA, LifeYield Taxficient, Morningstar Stars… At some point we will reach Peak Scoring and then every advisor might throw their hands up in frustration.

Financial Planning

Timelines is a new feature in the Riskalyze Retirement Maps tool that will be available to Premium subscribers this December. Advisors will be able to add events, such as sending a kid to college, buying a house or taking Social Security. The changes will adjust in the Retirement Map calculation, to see how the events would have an impact on the client’s goals.

Although Klein has denied it, it seems like he’s building out an awful lot of financial planning functionality. It reminds me of other RIA platforms that started out with digital advice and added ‘lite’ financial planning (AdvisorEngine, Oranj and RobustWealth to name a few). Riskalyze started differently, but is heading in a similar direction.

RIA Platform

“We are focused, on making a deep impact for advisors. We will not become a TAMP, an RIA…we are not aiming to boil the ocean. We will continue to build great technology for advisors,” Klein insisted.  Actually, they already have most of an RIA platform, they’re just missing performance reporting and billing, neither of which have very high profit margins. They both also have a lot of standalone competition, so it makes sense not to expand into those areas.  (See What Exactly is Riskalyze Building?)

Klein promised that his company, which could have as much as much as 32% of the risk tolerance software market,  was going to support advisors as their partner, not to dictate to them as a vendor.

While they don’t want to be all things to all advisors, they do want to deliver an upscale, intuitive experience to a lot of advisors, already 22,000 and counting.

Mobile

In a recent survey of 1,000 advisors, 40% said that mobile will be the technology that has the biggest impact on wealth management.

Feedback from advisor showed Riskalyze that many were already squeezing their web-based tools onto their tiny smartphone screens. So, why not develop a mobile app that would optimize the experience?  Riskalyze might have been slow to adapt to the mobile, but it didn’t seem to hold back their growth at all.

Redtail AI

Redtail’s tech-focused CEO Brian McLaughlin, gave us an overview of how AI is impacting our lives in many sometimes unforeseen ways.  Their goal is to help financial advisors answer two key questions every day: 1) Who do I need to talk to today?, 2) What do I need to talk to them about?

The new Redtail AI offering will help advisors access many untapped sources of client data to better connect them to clients: sentiment; keyphrase; entity are focal points.   (See Winners of WealthTech: Brian McLaughlin)

This is a huge treasure trove of data that Redtail can use to feed their machine learning algorithms and generate actionable insights for advisors.  McLaughlin’s presentation showed the new AI-powered tools analyzing millions of emails, notes and texts for sentiment based on keywords and phrases.  The system could alert an advisor when clients are expressing negative feelings in their communication and bump them to the top of the queue for a call or email response.

I ran into McLaughlin at the airport as we were both leaving San Antonio and I was able to ask him a few more questions about his future plans for AI. I suggested functionality like we saw in a demo of Google Duplex where their AI can make a phone call to book appointments and interact with humans without them ever knowing that they’re talking to AI.  McLaughlin said that it’s a possibility as long as it’s in the best interest of both the client and advisor.

Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale, Hall of Fame Sportscaster, gave a riveting speech to the audience of advisors and partners.

Vitale shared a number of other of his favorite sayings:

  • “If you have a passion for anything you do, great things will come.”
  • “Anybody can stand tall with a gold trophy in their hand. Stand tall when things are tough.”
  • “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”
  • “This is the real world, not cupcake city.”

I included the above tweet since it contains a link to donate to Vitale’s charity.

Legal & Compliance

Hamburger discussed the unrealistic expectations that many advisors have about their firm’s valuation. One example of an RIA acquisition negotiation: “You can set the price, if I can set the terms.”

Who cares what the regulators want you to do about cybersecurity, Hamburger asked? Your standards should be much higher than that.  If you’re on top of your game and relentlessly pursue a top client experience, you’ll be just fine, he believes.

Advisor Marketing Tips

As an industry, we spend next to nothing on marketing & then wonder why it’s not working, exclaimed Megan Carpenter, CEO of FiComm Partners. What I like about Megan is that she’s so passionate about helping advisors build better businesses through branding, marketing and PR.

Advisors often combine client service, business development and marketing when they actually should be kept separate, Carpenter noted.

Developing a strong content marketing channel is one of the best ways to increase web traffic to your firm’s website. But what about advisors that have trouble writing?  Advisors who aren’t good at writing should hire a ghostwriter to create their content, recommended , CEO of Better Money Decisions, as RIA based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Brad Sherman, President of Sherman Wealth Management, came up with this fun activity to interact with prospective clients in a casual atmosphere.  Thinking outside the box and creating inventive prospecting methods allows newer firms like Sherman’s to build their book of business at the expense of more established ones.

Social media is a marketing channel that all advisors should be taking advantage of.  All content you create becomes a permanent media asset that can be repurposed over and over again across different social media channels, explained ⁦⁩, CEO of C-Suite Social Media.

When it comes to creating video content, Powell gave an example of using Facebook Live.  She noted that her firm often uses iPhones for their video works just as well in this medium as highly produced and expensive content.

Power Users Q&A

I spoke to a few advisors in the audience about this panel and they all agreed that they appreciate when successful peers break down their experiences as independent practitioners and share some best practices.

Maybe Riskalyze is a silver bullet to maintain clients’ mental equilibrium?

I just wanted to get a picture of Batman and Robin into a blog post.  Thanks to Jamie Cox, Principal at Harris Financial Group for the opportunity.

The Riskalyze Risk Number can help couples communicate more effectively about their finances, stated Nina O’Neal of Archer Investment Management.  Sometimes it seems as though to be an advisor you have to be 10% money manager and 90% couples’ therapist, she exclaimed.

Having wide divergence between spouses’ risk numbers is an opportunity to discuss their differences, not an obstacle, noted  , founder of Rubin Wealth Advisors.

The Behavioral Investor

Dr. Daniel Crosby is a psychologist and expert in behavioral finance who has leveraged his study of market psychology into a New York Times bestseller and his own asset management firm.

I’m fascinated by behavioral psychology and the number of books on the topic seem to be exploding.

Crosby explained how people who suffer from damage to the part of their brain that control emotion are unable to make even the smallest decision because almost every aspect of human decision making involves emotions. But these same people are excellent investors because emotion has negative correlation to investment success.

The very traits that led to human evolutionary success makes us terrible investors. Herd mentality is just one of them.

Breakout Sessions

There were a LOT of breakout sessions! No way I could even attend more than a tiny fraction and writing about them all would take up an entire blog post in itself. So, I’m just picking out a few highlights here.

You can’t argue with that kind of event planning.

RIA M&A

, CEO of  Financial ran a session called Success Through Acquisitions, Succession Planning and Dynamic Innovation, where he explained how he has grown his practice through seven acquisitions and constant technology innovation.  His utilization of technology helped streamline his office and build scalability, which were key to the success of his acquisitions.

Chalekian also shared some best practices for leveraging technology, encouraging innovation, completing due diligence, and succession planning techniques, all of which can help advisors gain a higher valuation on their current business.

AssetMap

The attendance at the Asset Map session was overflowing and I couldn’t even get into the room!  Their product is so simple yet incredibly effective for display a client’s entire financial life on a single sheet of paper. And it now includes Riskalyze integration!

LikeFolio

LikeFolio is one of 5 or 6 companies with full access to Twitter’s entire database. They filter tweets for bots, scour for sentiment, and add a very interesting component to investing.

Ron Carson

Ron Carson, CEO of Carson Wealth, walked through a demo for a packed room of advisors by showing them the onboarding process of Carson’s in-house technology platform, which is built on Salesforce.

67% of advisors increased their fees in 2016 yet all had net positive asset inflows, but the 33% who lowered fees had net outflows, according to Carson. He also reported that his firm brought in $458 million of new business this year  through their website and it was entirely digitally onboarded.

Tax overlay can add 80-100 bps in alpha for clients, Carson claimed, but less than 1% of advisors are offering it.  He said that his platform has this functionality, but there is a wide range of meanings when it comes to tax overlay. Some TAMPs, like Envestnet or Natixis, charge 10 bps for a tax optimization that can deliver that much alpha. I’m not sure how Carson’s platform can do the same for free.

One thing I love about listening to Ron Carson is that he peppers his presentation with perfect, Twitter-sized sound bites.  For example, “technology spend is a key indicator of RIA growth, the more they spend, the less they grow.”  This one is brilliant because it is counter-intuitive. Most of the stats I’ve seen indicate the opposite.

Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit

Thanks for the shout out, Jason!