I had every intention of sharing my thoughts on the Evidence-Based Investing Conference West sooner, but I made my special episode of All About Your Benjamins The Podcast the priority when I got home; hopefully, you’ve had a chance to listen to it. I was fortunate enough to get some of FinTwit’s finest to answer a question, “What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about money when you were young?”
What started out to be a fun project has turned out to be an amazing episode and it has been by far my highest downloaded episode to date…I’ll be doing more of these at various conferences and FinTwit gatherings in the future.
Once I finished up the podcast, it was time to get caught up on all things RLSWM. But, here we are and I finally have the chance to share the highlights of my trip to Dana Point.
Although the first day was only a half day, it was packed with great panels and keynote speakers.
- The first three panels focused primarily on investing, which makes sense given this is the EBI/Global Indexing &ETF conference, but in the later days, there actually were two tracks of panels: one for investing and one for financial advisors dealing more with practice management, communicating with clients, and messaging.
- The discussions covered everything from active vs. passive, ESG, Gen. X vs. Gen. Y, new ETF launches, and investing in emerging markets. There were many great quotes, many of which I tweeted out in an attempt to keep up with Bill Sweet’s live-tweeting (I couldn’t), but my favorite came from Blair duQuesnay. When discussing active vs. passive, which was discussed multiple times over the three days, she quoted Jack Bogle, “It’s no longer active vs. passive, but high cost investing vs. low cost investing.”
- After the panels, Barry Ritholtz sat down with Annie Duke to talk about decision making when you don’t have all of the information. This was a continuation and a bit of a revisit to his Masters In Business interview with Annie when her book, Thinking In Bets, was released. Despite having heard their podcast conversation, I really enjoyed listening to Annie speak in person. I was even lucky enough to talk with her for a little bit afterward with my friends Tadas Viskanta and Joey Fishman. She was as enjoyable to talk with as she was to listen to on the stage with Barry.
- I have to admit that I skipped out on the next session, which was Aaron Klein’s presentation about the year of the advisor. I wish I would have heard what he had to say because from what I can tell, Aaron is a great guy and gets what advisors are looking for as we try to move our industry forward. I had a good reason for missing this though…
- While Aaron was on stage, I had the opportunity to finally meet and talk with Nick Maggiulli and Morgan Housel. This opportunity was worth the price of admission; both of these guys are at the top of my favorite writers and they were so down to earth. It was a lot of fun to get to know them beyond the occasional interactions on Twitter. Both are stand up dudes!
- The day ended with a double whammy of presenters. First up, Josh Brown owned the stage like few others can; if you ever have the chance to hear him speak, don’t miss it! Josh spoke about how Ritholtz Wealth Management has risen to be one of the fastest growing and top Registered Investment Advisors in the country. Josh shared a number of gems with us:
- Be authentic–people work with people they like.
- Creating your own brand and following is crucial.
- Blogging has been huge for RWM–not only with new clients but with new advisors and bloggers. They are well on their way to becoming the Golden State Warriors of financial services.
- It’s been important for each of the RWM writers to maintain their individuality with their writing; he used the example of the Wu-Tang Clan, which as a hip-hop fan I appreciated.
- You better practice what you preach–clients will call you out if you don’t.
- Following Josh’s presentation was Ryan Holiday, of whom I am a huge fan. I discovered him when I found The Obstacle Is The Way, and I’ve read all of his books with the exception of his newest, Conspiracy, which is on my bookshelf to read soon. If you are not familiar with Ryan, he is most known for his writing about stoicism and the Stoics. His presentation focused on stoicism and how its principles can apply not only in life in general, but also in the work we do with our clients and in the investment field. After he was done on the stage, I was able to get a copy of his book, The Daily Stoic signed, which was pretty a cool experience.
- Top the first day off with some time chatting it up with friends from FinTwit, and I was able to say Day One far exceeded my expectations.
Day two started off with a bang…
- We started the morning off with a conversation between Barry Ritholtz and Ken Fisher; it was another extension of an earlier Masters In Business episode. Only this time, it was unedited and a little uncomfortable. We were able to see many sides of Mr. Fisher: the genius, the ego-maniac, and the improper. If you know anyone who attended the conference, ask them about Ken Fisher and I’m sure they’ll have a few stories to tell…I’ll keep those for private conversations to keep this blog post rated PG for the kids.
- After the fireside chat, there was a panel discussing the modern index which touched on active vs. passive again. The discussion on this topic was much deeper than the one on the first day, and the panel was more than qualified to talk on the topic. My favorite quote came from Meb Faber, “Anything not market-weighted becomes active.”
- Later in the morning, we were fortunate to hear from Gerard O’ Reilly, the Co-CEO and CIO of Dimensional Funds followed up a little later by Joseph Davis, who is Vanguard’s global chief economist. Both men work for firms highly respected in the investment community and they discussed the current state of investing and what to expect in the economy in the coming year. This was another opportunity to spend time talking with fellow FinTwit members, so I only caught a little of each of the presentations, but from what I heard and the reviews of others, both were great speakers.
- The afternoon began the split tracks, one investment focused and one advisor focused. I chose mostly advisor focused panels and listened to friends on panels discuss the future of financial advice and learning from “competition”. I want to take a second to talk about “competition”; one of the things I respect most about the FinTwit community and those in attendance at the conference is I don’t feel as if we view each other as competition. Sure, we’re all in the same industry and looking to take on new clients, but it seems as if we all realize there are more than enough people who need help, need good financial advice and need to be protected from the crooks out there for all of us to succeed. It’s not cutthroat in our community; instead, it’s really uplifting and trying to help each other succeed. It’s really a unique and special thing.
- I managed to take some personal time and escape to the pool to hang out with my wife and boys for a while as well; balance is important!
- The final session in the advisor track was a treat; Michael Batnick and Ben Carlson recorded a live episode of Animal Spirits. I’m not sure if it will actually make it to iTunes because it was more of a visual episode; they covered the history of the markets if Twitter had already been around. It was beyond clever; they created screenshots of tweets from Jesse Livermore, J.P. Morgan and other famous people and sprinkled in tweets from current contributors like Phil Huber, anonymous Jake, Cliff Asness and more. I’m not sure if everyone in the room got all of the inside jokes, but it was great; I know they worked hard on the episode and it showed!
- Day Two concluded with a presentation from Paolo Sironi about the future of Financial Innovation. This was another presentation I left early from to hang with FinTwit friends; Paolo is extremely smart, but hearing what other advisors are up to, trading best practices and just talking shop is priceless. Plus, I did not attend any of the group dinners because I decided to hang back at the hotel with my crew each night.
The morning got a great start with a medium size group of advisors joining the Ritholtz Wealth Management team for breakfast and talking about practice management; it was great to be in a room of advisors with similar goals for the future of our industry and to hear the different ways we’re all improving the way we work with clients, the planning we are providing, different service models being used and more. Plus, we all received more time with the Ritholtz team, which is a treat in and of itself.
- Tuesday morning was the morning of my panel, so I missed a decent amount of the first presentations. Personally, I wanted to make sure I was on my ‘A’ game during my time on stage and the group decided to get together and do some last minute planning so we could provide the most value in our time in front of everyone. Being on stage was a tremendous honor and I had a lot of fun talking about how I’m using my blog, podcast, video, and social media to communicate with clients, future clients and other advisors. I will admit that it was a humbling experience being on stage next to Winnie Sun, who has a social media empire underneath her. As she talked about her approach and presence I couldn’t help but wonder how I made it up on the stage. I think I did alright!!
- While I was busy preparing for my panel, Josh Brown shared with the audience that Mr. Abnormal Returns, Tadas Viskanta, was joining Ritholtz Wealth Management as the Director of Investor Education. Another huge addition to an already strong team.
- The final panel for the day was another advisor focused panel, and it highlighted advisors who had recently broken away to start their own firms. I was proud to see a couple of my XY Planning Network members up there in Taylor Schulte and Grant Bledsoe; in addition to fellow XYPNer’s, my friend Bill Sweet did a great job using his Army experience to relate the feeling of leaving to join an RIA. I’ve said this many time, but Bill Sweet is such a smart advisor and he is a tremendous speaker…he’s a hidden treasure at Ritholtz Wealth Management.
- The finale to the conference was Mike Lombardi speaking about The Patriot Way and how that applies to business. I’m not really an NFL fan, and as a Colts supporter I’m supposed to hate anything Patriot related, but Mike was a great presenter and had a good story to share.
- The rest of the day was spent at the pool with the family 🙂
If you’re thinking about attending future EBI events, assuming the New York version is still a go for the fall and it returns again out west next summer, you should go. As you can see, the panels, keynotes, fireside chats and other speakers are all top-notch; they’ll all be worth the price of admission. I’ll be at every single one, unless a family emergency keeps me home, as long as Ritholtz Wealth Management has a hand in the organization and FinTwit continues its strong presence at them. As great as the speakers are, I’d spend all day talking and hanging out with FinTwit. At this year’s EBI West I was able to meet many of the people I read weekly (if not daily), see friends, and meet new people…it was priceless. I can’t wait to do it again.
I want to take a moment to publicly thank everyone who contributed to my special podcast episode; I truly appreciate your generosity with your time and willingness to help me put out an episode with a lot of great nuggets that will hopefully inspire some listeners to get started early with their saving and investing. I’m planning on making this a regular at conferences and get-togethers, so I hope you’ll be willing to do it again. And if I missed you this time, please know it was not intentional–hopefully, I can catch you in the next one.
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Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining to your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimer page.