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Notes from the RIABiz one-year anniversary party

The spirit of the RIA Business was strong at this backyard event

Monday, August 23, 2010 – 7:13 AM by Brooke Southall
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The RIABiz partners are very rarely in the same place at the same time; in fact, this is our first real team photo!

Brooke’s Note: I have heard one criticism of almost every RIA conference or other event that I’ve ever attended: There is never enough down time for networking and way too much time devoted to droning speakers. The RIABiz 1st Anniversary Birthday Party did not fall in to that trap — thanks to Jennifer and Tim Welsh and his company, Nexus Strategy, that put it on. Aside from the combined 10 minutes that Tim Welsh and I spoke [only I droned], people merrily mixed. Much was learned. Lasting bonds were forged and people had a blast. Thanks to everyone who came.

Since this was a local event, I know we missed out on meeting many in the RIABiz community that might have turned out for a meetup in their area. We all enjoyed talking face-to-face with people we’ve only communicated with remotely before, and I hope we can connect this way with more of the community informally at the events we’ll be covering in the coming months.

RIABiz Chief Technology Officer Nevin Freeman brought a puzzle of interlocked metal loops that was passed from hand to hand at the RIABiz anniversary party Saturday night. No one could solve the puzzle, including our un-stumpable CTO. See: RIABiz has its second birthday and reaches new milestones.

Finally, at the after-party, it ended up in the hands of attorney Brian Hamburger, who carried it over into the light of the heat lamp on the deck of Tim and Jennifer Welsh’s Northern California home.

Hamburger looked up a few minutes later, the elusive silver ring at the center of the puzzle in his hands.

“I just kept trying things until something worked,” he laughed.

Try until it works

That seems to be as good a metaphor for entrepreneurship as anything – and in fact echoed Hamburger’s explanation, earlier in the night, for the success of his law and compliance firm, Hamburger Law Firm and MarketCounsel.

Many of those at the party were RIAs, entrepreneurs in the RIA space, or people who support those entrepreneurs, or both. We are all engaged in trying things until we find one that works.

“It was a sincere pleasure to be the host for all of them,” said Tim Welsh, who reflected Sunday on what had just transpired in his backyard to the background musicality of a steel drum band.

“There was a very diverse and exciting group of people, companies and technology that serve the RIA industry, and we had a sampling from all of them – asset managers, roll ups, M & A bankers, compliance professionals, lawyers, technology providers, marketers, publicists, PR people, custodians, consultants and more.”

Here are a few photos that Nevin happened to snap during the event:

Among the gang were stalwarts of Schwab Advisor Services. Alison Wertheim and Lindsay Tiles, the chief spokeswomen for the big RIA custodian, were there talking up the company’s fall IMPACT conference.

Nick Georgis, a senior Schwab executive, lent his strong presence to the event and said that he’s very pleased to be back in the Schwab fold. See: Nick Georgis returns to Schwab Advisor Services.

Tech talk

On the technology side was Karen Lisowski, a former Fidelity executive who handles West Coast sales for Florida-based Black Diamond Performance Reporting. Our newly hired second developer Gabriel, a web programming veteran, was there from his home in the East Bay.

Rogier Verhulst, a senior executive for LinkedIn, Silicon Valley-based is a friend of mine from bike racing. His firm is already the foremost social media for RIAs and other business people. Verhulst let it be known that his company is responding to industry requests for enhanced features and integration APIs.

Marcel Dawson, the founder of RIAMarketplace, by far the largest social network of people in the RIA business, traveled to the RIABiz event from his home in Charlotte, N.C. Marcel has been a tremendous RIABiz supporter from before it launched last Aug. 4. He kept the spirit of the event festive — and dressed best for the tropical theme.

“Without a doubt, the showstopper of the evening was Marcel’s white suit,” Welsh says.

Andy Rachleff, chief executive of KaChing, spoke with an open-minded calm about his nearly year-old venture, which, is attempting to link RIAs and consumers using the best principles of web technology and open architecture investing. See: Can Silicon Valley rewire the RIA business? eBay investors think KaChing is the answer.

Brent Burns, president of Mill Valley, Calif.-based Asset Dedication attended with his co-founder, Stephen J. Huxley, chief investment strategist and founding partner. The innovative company acts as a sub-advisor to RIAs — bringing pension style investing to the retail investor in the form of individual bond separate accounts. Burns explains that the company is now making it possible for advisors to interact with his company largely electronically and — finally— integrate the financial planning and portfolio construction processes.

Transamerica building

Another attendee was Texas-drawlin’ Jeff Spears, CEO of Sanctuary Wealth Services that got a big boost in February with an investment from JMP Group (NYSE: JMP). The San Francisco-based company [located in the famed Transamerica building, cool] has its own way of supporting breakaway brokers with unbiased, unconflicted wealth management and business support services for high net worth clients and their advisors.

Our service platform went live recently facilitated by the February 2010 strategic investment from

Kevin Barlow of ForwardPro has helped found a company for RIAs that has taken off more quickly than he anticipated. The former top producer for Woodside, Calif.-based Fisher Investments is bringing some of Ken Fisher’s magic — and his own — to RIAs in general who want to boost sales. Stay tuned for an upcoming feature.

Hamburger lent his considerable presence [in addition to puzzle skills] to the affair. The New Jersey-based lawyer was looking very at home in California where he is busy building up his firm’s presence. He’s also in midstream of developing a program and attendee list for his company’s November conference in Las Vegas.

Bill Crager, president of Envestnet, will speak. The head of at least one of the top custodians has also agreed to speak at Hamburger’s event. I will moderate a MarketCounsel panel. If last year’s event in Princeton is any indication, this could be a hot ticket in the RIA industry. See: The seven things I learned from roll-up executives in Princeton, including not to call them that.

Local talent

More local talent at the Welsh backyard included David Selig, CEO of Advice Dynamics Partners of Mill Valley, Calif. He is one of the top RIA M&A practitioners. Rich Gill represented Focus Financial, the biggest aggregator of RIAs.

What was apparent at the party was how Welsh, whose company is called Nexus Strategy, is living up to its name. The former Schwab marketing director advises diverse RIA-related technology companies like Black Diamond, IPS AdvisorPro and Laserfiche. But he’s also helping asset custodians like TD Ameritrade [which helped to sponsor to the RIABiz party] and industry groups like the Financial Planning Association to navigate their futures in an industry that evolves by the minute.

Welsh also jumps in to help bootstrapping organizations like RIABiz. He brought together a broad constituency of the RIA business in the dog days of August – and left everyone asking about next year’s version.

Back to business

Meanwhile, it’s Sunday; the party’s over and I’m back to what seems like a 24/7 mode of banging out the articles. I’m in the corner of my favorite coffee shop in Mill Valley, where people are lazily reading the New York Times and taking pictures of my dogs on the sidewalk.

I’m working on this article and making final changes to an article about the latest from SEI and Genworth’s turnkey asset management programs. Like many RIA articles, it’s fun to write. These two companies are sworn competitors, which adds spice to the article. But the bottom line is they’re both growing because they are both figuring out what it takes to be part of the growing RIA business. That growth means the party is still going on.

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Mentioned in this article:

MarketCounsel | Hamburger Law Firm
Consulting Firm, Compliance Expert, Legal Services for RIAs
Top Executive: Brian Hamburger

Nexus Strategy
Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Timothy D. Welsh

RIA Publication, Blog/Social Networking Tool
Top Executive: Brooke Southall

Jeff Spears

Jeff Spears

August 23, 2010 — 1:09 PM

Great party! Everyone I talked to shared the opinion that RIABiz is a must read and perfect way to start your day.

See you next year.

Nevin Freeman

Nevin Freeman

August 24, 2010 — 9:39 PM

At last! After Brian solved the above mentioned puzzle I couldn’t rest until it was done. Brooke wanted me to get back to work, so he told me this anecdote that helped me do it:


If you put a fly in a coke bottle with no lid, it will buzz around forever until it finally pops out the mouth at the top. But if you put a bee in the same bottle, it will make the observation that it should be able to go straight ahead [though the clear plastic], and will fly directly forward, never finding the hole at the top.


He said that a business needs people that take each of these approaches to balance each other out. I had been taking the bee approach all of these days; a little fly action had the ring off in a matter of minutes.

<img src="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4893562/RIABiz/puzzle.png"/>

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