Close Close
Popular Financial Topics Discover relevant content from across the suite of ALM legal publications From the Industry More content from ThinkAdvisor and select sponsors Investment Advisor Issue Gallery Read digital editions of Investment Advisor Magazine Tax Facts Get clear, current, and reliable answers to pressing tax questions
Luminaries Awards
Josh Brown

Industry Spotlight > Advisors

What to Make of the Industry's First ‘Wealth Festival’

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

What You Need to Know

  • Co-hosted by Ritholtz Wealth and Advisor Circle, Future Proof turned the traditional notion of what an industry event can be on its head.
  • In addition to sessions on leadership and the future of RIAs, Future Proof showcased trends in money, digital assets, Web 3.0 and more.

If anyone asks if conferences are back in wealth management, the answer most definitely is “yes.” By sampling a half dozen industry events these past few months during the traditional conference-heavy fall season, I can definitively report that financial advisors and the ecosystem that supports them are flocking to industry gatherings after an absence of two and a half years due to the pandemic.

The one confab that everyone has been talking about (and wondering if it would actually work) is Future Proof, which took place Sept. 10-13. Billed as the world’s first “wealth festival,” Future Proof featured an exciting change from typical large-scale conferences: The entire event was held outside. 

Yes, no more stuffy ballrooms and breakout sessions in the basements of Orlando hotels. Future Proof turned the whole idea of what an industry event could be upside down, creating many innovations in the conference experience along the way.

Produced by Matt Middleton and his Advisor Circle platform, along with long-time collaborators at Ritholtz Wealth Management such as CEO Josh Brown, the event definitely delivered on its promise to be more festival than conference, and it did so in an entertaining, fun and content-rich way that attracted over 2,000 attendees, who were in constant motion and engagement across the many event areas. 

The Scene

These spaces included a dedicated podcast stage, where attendees could listen in as some of the industry’s most popular podcasters recorded their latest discussions, as well as morning yoga and mindfulness sessions, surfing and skateboarding demonstrations, cooking classes and nightly concerts. Definitely not your typical custodian or broker-dealer event!

In a roughly quarter-mile space at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles in the town known as “Surf City,” Future Proof also featured an artificial turf boardwalk surrounded by colorful tents occupied by nearly 100 wealth management technology firms, asset managers and other service providers. 

Anchoring one end was a large stage that featured high-profile keynotes and panel discussions on the latest industry trends, as well as high-energy musical acts. At the other end was an eclectic gathering of food trucks, providing attendees with a wide selection of options for both lunch and dinner. 

Nearby, a trio of sold-out beachfront resort hotels hosted breakfasts and nightly networking receptions across from the Pacific Ocean, gleaming in all of its magnificence and providing world-class views under sunny skies for three days in September — a scene that would have made Chevy Chase and his famous “Fletch” character proud of SoCal. 

The Content

With this spectacular backdrop, Future Proof kicked off in the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 10, by hosting several panel discussions on topics like the future of technology, a debate on the impact of M&A and industry consolidation between DeVoe & Co. CEO David DeVoe and MarketCounsel CEO Brian Hamburger, and a conversation with the filmmaker and two stars of the upcoming documentary “This Is Not Financial Advice.”

Other noteworthy sessions included an executive leadership discussion on the “future of advice — what will it take to stay relevant,” featuring Mercer Advisors CEO Dave Welling, Journey Strategic Wealth President Penny Phillips and Altruist CEO Jason Wenk. 

Welling said one way to differentiate a practice is to specialize in various advice segments, go “deeper in the vertical that you are working in” and be “more human” to relate to clients and their emotional and behavioral needs, which advisors often overlook in their pursuit of the left-brained aspects of wealth management (which focus more on numbers). 

Phillips suggested advisors build “community with clients” to become known as the go-to resource for various client segments and demographics. 

Naturally, a forward-looking event like Future Proof showcased trends in money, digital assets, Web 3.0 and more. In one high-profile session on the crypto markets, long-time experts Matt Hougan of Bitwise Asset Management, iconic advisor Ric Edelman and Ophelia Snyder, president of 21Shares and, took to the stage.

Focusing on the massive volatility of this emerging asset class, the panel members used various analogies to explain what’s been happening and to point out where and how advisors can become more knowledgeable.

“Crypto is a marketing opportunity,” Edelman said. “As part of your fiduciary duty, you need to be able to advise your clients on prudent ways to invest in this asset class, because if your clients are dabbling here, (which they are) they are most likely doing it wrong.” 

The founder of Edelman Financial Engines believes that if advisors can become smart about crypto assets, they can easily demonstrate their value beyond just investing in digital assets and take advantage of traditional tax planning opportunities such as tax-loss harvesting, gifting strategies and more. “There is no wash sale rule with crypto,” he noted.

In a nod to how technology is rewriting just about every aspect of wealth management, Future Proof invited Apex Fintech Solutions CEO Bill Capuzzi and Olivia Eisinger, head of the Advisory Channel at Apex and a former TD Ameritrade executive, to the main stage for a deep dive discussion on where the RIA custody business is headed.

Billed as a David and Goliath conversation, Capuzzi and Eisinger pointed to the upcoming mega-merger of Schwab and TD Ameritrade as an event that’s bound to create dislocation in the heavily concentrated custody business — creating opportunities for new entrants.

“We’ve been successful with traditional fintech platforms that need incredible scale to operate, and now we are bringing that same maniacal focus to remove friction in the RIA custody space,” Capuzzi said.

Other Elements

The rest of the agenda was full of sessions across the boardwalk, with the stages and content areas having the most shade the most widely attended. Exhibiting firms also launched new products and services during the event.

Most notably, Jeremy Grantham’s GMO asset management firm did so with the launch of Nebo, a technology-driven asset allocation and portfolio management platform for RIAs that streamlines and automates the process for delivering custom and personalized portfolios. (Nebo stands for needs-based optimization). 

Nebo and other vendors had good traffic from advisors eager to learn and sample the latest innovations — while seeking shelter from the warm California sun. 

While it’s no surprise that Future Proof tilted more towards a younger crowd (the average age of advisor attendees was 33), I believe Future Proof will become a franchise event in the industry — particularly now that TD Ameritrade’s LINC conference, which appealed to the younger, emerging advisor, is history — opening the door for Future Proof to expand and move up market. 

So, a tip of the cap to Advisor Circle and Ritholtz Wealth for taking one of the more calculated risks we’ve seen in quite a long time, while raising the bar for the financial advisor event space. I hope to see you on the beach next year.

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

(Photo courtesy of Josh Brown)


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.