News, Vision & Voice for the Advisory Community
RIABiz's top 10 stories from the past month offer a window into what RIAs care about
November 26, 2009 — 4:28 AM UTC by Elizabeth MacBride
We’re not working today, and hope you are taking a break, too. Thanksgiving seemed a good moment to look back at our most popular stories for the last month, and to say thanks to the people who have taken time to share their insights on RIABiz.com.
Herewith is a list of the top 10 stories from RIABiz between Oct. 24 and Nov. 25, and a pithy quote from each one.
Few things are more important to an advisor’s success than his or her porfolio management software. RIABiz’s number-one story this month was about the emergence of Black Diamond as a major competitor. Brooke Southall dug deep to get the story — and then interviewed advisors willing to share their experiences with the software.
“The difference the way I saw it was like the difference between a Blackberry and an iPhone,” said Eric Thurber, chief of Three Bridge Wealth Advisors of Menlo Park, Calif. “They both do the same things but [like the iPhone usability advantages over Blackberry] it was vastly better on Black Diamond.”
This story looked behind the scenes at Genworth Financial’s comeback.
Ron Cordes, co-chairman of Genworth Financial Wealth Management, explained how the firm is helping advisors who outsource wealth management to Genworth reassure and reach out to clients. “The advisors that we work with are really going on the offensive,” he said.
Robert Isbitts was the voice of reason in this guest column on how mutual funds can fill most of your clients’ needs for alternative investing. He suggested that RIAs should stand firm when their clients demand exposure to products that are needlessly risky.
“Your job is to do for them what they can’t do for themselves, since you, not they, are the professional advisor,” he said. “That typically requires you to be proactive, not reactive, to find solutions to their problems.”
Brooke Southall made one of his famous lists about a story that was all the buzz for a week a two, not only on RIAbiz but in most financial news circles. Brooke reached out to some of the most in-touch people in the RIA world, including David Hou, founding partner of Luminous Capital of Los Angeles, one of the year’s biggest breakaways, to ask for their thoughts about whether McCann could save UBS with his old Merrill Lynch team.
“We were not big fans of the mid level management — too much fat — at Merrill Lynch as we found them to be duplicative and simply [added to] overhead,” Hou told Brooke. “However, Bob knows what he is doing and I am sure that he will take those that he feels will generate shareholder value.”
In a story picked up by national media web sites, RIAbiz reported that Worth magazine’s new owner is winning over RIAs with pay-to-play profiles that aren’t obviously labeled as what they are: advertorials.
One of our readers had this to say, in comments at the end: “For some, I presume the inclination to sign up for this WORTH advertorial is a shortcut to getting the full blown credibility that can be achieved with an ongoing PR campaign. The participants want to position this as third party recognition, but the savvy consumer will see it for what it is -a regionalized advertisement that is cleverly packaged.”
Fidelity’s Charles Goldman made some big promises in this story about the custodian’s new commitment to RIAs of all sizes.
“We’re going to have 800 advisors covered by mid-next year and we’re going to keep on going. Service and knowledge of clients’ accounts is not the place to skim,” he said.
To which a Schwab spokeswoman responded: “As they attempt to replicate, Schwab will continue to innovate.”
After attending a MarketCounsel conference near Princeton, Elizabeth MacBride [that’s me] wrote this list of observations, including a note on the physical antipathy between two roll-up execs.
“Competition is the most intense between Focus Financial, the self-proclaimed leader in the business, and United Capital, which just got an infusion of $15 million from Bessemer Ventures. A body language expert would have had a great time watching Rudy Adolf of Focus Financial and Joe Duran of United Capital lean away from each other and look away as the other was speaking.”
Raymond James and LPL are sort of like the Hatfields and McCoys of the advisor world, which probably explains why RIAbiz readers found this story so appealing.
RIA Tom Ruggie explained what drove him to cobble together a business model in which he is using both firms to custody his assets: He wanted to grow his revenue and reach a new target market.
“Clients on the high net worth side are more work, but I’m driven by working with them,” he says. “They’re entrepreneurs, and I consider myself an entrepreneur. I like working with someone like that. It’s what excites me.”
Perhaps it was the reference to how a couple of self-styled “blue-collar” advisors doubled their pay after breaking away from UBS. This story was a big hit with readers.
One of the best things about being an RIA, says Jim Scanlon is that, “I don’t go to meetings to be a body in a chair.”
In an inimitable, laconic style, our own Nevin Freeman takes a look at a new offering from Techfi’s founder in this technology review, discussing the ins and outs of ribbon strips and data reconciliation.
“We think Matt Abar and his team may rock the boat with this new development, but time and real-world use of the software will tell,” Nevin said.
Mentioned in this article:
Top Executive: Tom Nally
Raymond James Financial Inc.
Asset Custodian, RIA-Friendly Broker-Dealer
Top Executive: Bill Van Law
Top Executive: Bill Morrissey
United Capital Financial Advisers
Consolidator/Roll-up Firm, RIA Welcoming Breakaways
Top Executive: Joe Duran
Black Diamond (An independent business group of Advent)
Outsourcer, Portfolio Management System, Trading/Rebalancing, Performance Reporting
Top Executive: Dave Welling (SVP & GM, Black Diamond)
Regulatory Attorney, Consulting Firm, Specialized Breakaway Service, Mergers and Acquisition Firm, Compliance Expert, RIA Set-up Firm, Outsourcer, Regulatory Consultant, Business Broker, Tech: Other, Conference, Data and ratings for RIAs
Top Executive: Brian Hamburger
Focus Financial Partners, LLC
Top Executive: Rudy Adolf
Portfolio Management System
Top Executive: Matt Abar
Sungarden Investment Research
Asset Manager for RIAs, Separate Account Manager, Alternative Investments
Top Executive: Rob Isbitts
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