If you have access to any financial media, Josh Brown is hard to miss. Also known as “The Reformed Broker,” he has one of the biggest media presences in the financial services industry. Brown’s blog, “The Reformed Broker,” is a must-read for anyone following financial news. He has more than 121,000 followers on Twitter (@ReformedBroker), he appears regularly on CNBC-TV’s “Halftime Report,” and has published books including “Backstage Wall Street” and the “Clash Of Financial Pundits.” ETF.com caught up with him and discussed how social media can add value and differentiate an advisory firm. Brown will be speaking in January at ETF.com’s “Inside ETFs” conference on social media and the financial advisor.
ETF.com: You’re the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management. How did you get there?
Josh Brown: I was a retail stockbroker until 2010. I dropped my Series 7 and I went completely investment advisory. That's when I joined with Barry [Ritholtz]. We were advisors at another firm, and then we broke away and formed our own practice in September 2013.
ETF.com: What came first? The blog or Twitter?
Brown: The blog came about a year before Twitter. The only reason I went on Twitter was it looked like another place to share links to my blog. I felt like I’m putting a lot of effort into what I'm writing and I want people to read it. I don't know why, but it was just an instinctual thing that I was writing helpful, good stuff. So Twitter was just one other place to drop a link.
ETF.com: And before the blog, did you write a newsletter for clients or anything like that?
Brown: No, never. I started writing in 2008 when I was still a broker. I was saying things that no one else was willing to say. That resonated with the readers. They could tell I was authentic and was really speaking my mind. In hindsight, I was saying some pretty dangerous things about the industry.
If I had thought more about it, I wouldn't have done it. But I was really backed into a corner. It was 2008; the world was coming to an end. All my friends were getting laid off. My business was blown to pieces. And my firm was going out of business.
[The blog] was just kind of this primal-scream therapy for me. And for whatever reason, relatively quickly it built a following. So I felt obligated to keep going. I would write a post and I would get five emails that night. And I said, “People are reading this; I'd better keep going.” Then some serious people started to read it and take me seriously, like editors at the Wall Street Journal, producers at CNBC. The rest is history.
ETF.com: And so the blog led to CNBC?
Brown: The blog led to everything. If I didn't start the blog, I don't know what I would be doing. I would either still be a retail schmuck selling stock picks over the phone, or maybe I'd be working for the Long Island Railroad; I have no idea.