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Brian Hamburger, president and CEO of MarketCounsel Consulting

Industry Spotlight > RIAs

MarketCounsel Summit Zooms in on RIA Growth

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Known as the capstone to the conference season, the MarketCounsel Summit held forth for its 15th year earlier this month in Las Vegas.

Brian Hamburger, the advisory attorney and CEO of MarketCounsel, opened the event with some pointed observations and questions for the audience, setting the stage for the next two-plus days of content and networking. 

“Operational complexity is the No. 1 reason that advisors are selling today,” he said. “What was once a collegial environment in the industry is no longer, as firms are fighting for a limited talent pool.” 

Hamburger added: “More and more folks are joining the party, such as PE investors, which is creating a natural tension between business priorities and advisors’ role as fiduciaries — and as a result, are clients losing their seat at the table?”

These themes and issues populated the agenda, with the perennial focus on organic growth topping the list. With recent industry studies showing that independent advisor growth has been slowing (when market gains are netted out), everyone seems to be doubling down on ways to strengthen their marketing muscle.

Growth Focus

The opening panel discussion, “Tactics of High Growth Firms,” featured Sara Baker, chief planning and legal officer of Triad Wealth Advisors, which recently launched an RIA; Jonathan Blumenthal, CEO of Quotient Wealth Partners, a newly formed RIA on the Dynasty platform (formerly with Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management); and David Wood, chief visionary officer of Gateway Financial Partners.

Blumenthal’s growth strategy is to identify local corporations with aging workforces and become experts in all aspects of retirement planning for those firms.

Baker noted that in-person seminars have been working as a tried-but-true way to convert new business, and Wood highlighted a personalized gift catalog, made available to his advisors, that has helped them drive increased referrals.

Everyone agreed that while there are many approaches, advisory firms need to be committed to investing in the process to drive scalable results.  

M&As and RIAs

Next on the agenda was Mark Hurley, an early RIA prognosticator who gained notice from a 1999 white paper he wrote predicting the consolidation of the industry into just 40 firms. While his outlook didn’t come to life as quickly as he had thought, he certainly foresaw the current dominance of mega-RIA firms.

Today, Hurley predicts a much more competitive industry. His latest industry research is entitled “Welcome to the Jungle,” which focuses on firms having to compete more directly for talent and prospects. (Earlier, he founded the Fiduciary Network and now serves as CEO of Digital Privacy & Protection.) 

“It’s all about organic growth,” Hurley said. “The M&A environment will slow as the middle of the industry has been ‘hollowed out’ from the last decade’s acquisition frenzy.” 

Plus, as bigger firms offer more services for the same price, smaller firms will just be “jobs” and not businesses, as they won’t be able to compete with the mega-firms on price and service, he added.

Technology Transformation

Technology was a theme that spanned across many sessions, most notably the final day’s fintech-themed roundtable discussion. Led by Invent CEO Oleg Tishkevich, the workshop featured former Orion CEO Eric Clarke, Lifeworks Advisors CEO Ron Bullis, and Kingview Partners CEO Sean McGillivray.

The panel focused on the evolution of advisor technology, particularly since the early days of the RIA space. In the past, advisors were basically told what technology they needed to run their businesses and deliver advisory services; the industry was fragmented and included complicated tech stacks. 

Now, however, RIAs are actively taking advantage of the dramatic advancements in cloud-native technology and the increasing levels of consolidation that have led to “true enterprise scale.” As a result, there are more powerful solutions for advisors, resulting in “digital ecosystems” that put advisors at the center — so they’re better able to control the client experience.

(Shown in photo: Brian Hamburger)


Timothy D. Welsh is president, CEO and founder of Nexus Strategy LLC, a leading consulting firm to the wealth management industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or on X @NexusStrategy.


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