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Ron Carson — The Advisor’s Advisor: The 2017 IA 25

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Ron Carson is the founder and CEO of the Carson Group, which includes RIA Carson Wealth Management, advisor coach Peak Advisor Alliance and turnkey partner Carson Institutional Alliance. Overall, these firms have amassed nearly $8 billion in assets under advisement.

With close to 50 offices nationwide, partners of Carson Institutional Alliance have been growing their businesses 40% more per year than the industry average (among those who have been with Carson for three years or more), the group says.

“Ron is a true leader who has thought deeply and crisply about the ever-changing financial-services landscape and how advisors and firms can evaluate and evolve their businesses,” explained David Canter, head of the RIA segment for Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, in an interview.

In 2012, Carson helped start the alliance for RIAs, which goes by the name aRIA and serves as a think tank of six RIA firms (and was recognized in the 2013 IA 25). Two years later, he joined the American College of Financial Services board.

(Related: Luis Aguilar, Ron Carson Join Institute for the Fiduciary Standard Advisory Board)

The wealth manager and innovator made headlines recently by choosing to breakaway from LPL Financial and work with a number of custodial and broker-dealer firms — Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Cetera Advisor Networks, eMoney Advisor and Orion Advisor Services.

“Instead of seeing factors like technology, regulation, rising client expectations, fee compression and consolidation as obstacles, we view them as opportunities,” Carson said in a statement. These are “opportunities that wouldn’t be possible without the bench strength of the partners we have today.”

The entrepreneur grew up on a farm in Tekamah, Nebraska. While studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he started a financial-services business in his dorm room and has never looked back.

“Ron is a master at getting advisors to focus on where they can add the most value and bring it to investments and solutions throughout their practices,” Canter explained. “He is among the elites when it comes to coaching in this profession.”

Future Focus

Peak Advisor Alliance advises close to 1,150 offices with 5,000 registered representatives and independent advisors who actively manage over $100 billion. “This means we have a really great pulse [on advisors.] We collect a ton of data and use it to formulate where we need to be as a business,” Carson explained.

With $41 trillion of money potentially “in motion,” there’s plenty of opportunity and challenge for today’s advisor. “Unlike in 1983, when I got started, every relationship is replaceable today,” he said.

In this environment, advisors must prove their value proposition to prospects and clients “behind a doubt.”

They will be asked very tough questions about costs, transparency and more. Investors “want to see an effective game plan that is unique to [them] and explained in a common language,” Carson said. “There is such demand [for advisors] to make the complex simple.”

Speaking of complex, how does the veteran advisor feel about technology and the robo threat? “You either evolve quickly or become irrelevant,” he said.

A good way to digest the significance of this development is to read the book “Exponential Organizations” by Salim Ismail, who founded Singularity University in Silicon Valley.

The book says that we are “only 1% through the technology revolution—we are one the eve of one of the most disruptive technology [and information] revolutions ever,” Carson added.

For older advisors, he suggests bringing in younger staff and FAs with whom you can “share with … what you stand for and give them a role.”

“There’s just way too much to learn and understand today,” he said.

Some are throwing up their hands and choosing not to deal with change. “They will not be relevant in the business. You have to partner with the right people … integrate [new technology and concepts], be flexible …. and embrace the unknown rather than defend what you know.” 


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