WealthStack New Wrinkle For Advisors & Fintech

WealthStack New Wrinkle For Advisors & Fintech

New conference focuses on the relationship between advisory services and technology.

Reviewed by: Drew Voros
Edited by: Drew Voros

Blair duQuesnayBlair duQuesnay, CFA and CFP, is an investment advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management, where she works with the firm’s clients to create sustainable financial plans and investment strategies. She is also writes the financial blog, “The Belle Curve,” and will be appearing at the “Wealth/Stack: Investing + Tech = The Future Of Advice” conference September 8-10 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Ritholtz Wealth Management is putting on the conference; the event is described as “created by advisors for advisors.”

ETF.com: Would you explain your role at Ritholtz Wealth Management (RWM)?

Blair duQuesnay: I'm a client-facing investment advisor. So I do financial plans for clients. I talk to people interested in becoming clients of the firm and then become their advisor.

I'm also a blogger. I write the blog “The Belle Curve,” and blog about financial planning topics and investing. So it's a dual role. I also serve as a member of the investment committee.

ETF.com: You're based in New Orleans. Are your clients all in the Louisiana area? Do you have a territory, or is it national?

duQuesnay: Not necessarily. I work with clients all over the country.

ETF.com: How many advisors are at the firm that are in your role, and how many people work at RWM?

duQuesnay: We have 31 employees and 17 advisors.

ETF.com: Tell me a little bit about the WealthStack conference.

duQuesnay: Wealth Stack is a new conference. We’ve done a few conferences in the past, but this is our first collaboration with Informa. And yes, this is a brand new conference by advisors for advisors.

There's a dual component though. It's also for fintech firms looking to introduce their technology to advisors. There's going to be a competition on best new financial technology inside the conference.

ETF.com What kind of fintech are we talking about?

duQuesnay: We have speakers from some of the top technology providers in the industry, such as Orion Advisor Solutions, which provides performance management software that also does billing for clients. It's also the client portal. So that's a huge one.

We have speakers from some of the custodians such as Dani Fava of TD Ameritrade.

Wealth manager firms can have a back shop like Shirl Penney's Dynasty, and it's all through one provider, or they have 10-12 different providers, and everything from performance management to marketing, email management, data collection and account aggregation. There's so many technologies out there trying to make what we do to serve clients easier and faster. And it's moving faster than we can really keep up with.

ETF.com: What’s behind the name WealthStack?

duQuesnay: There are two tracks of the conference. There's the wealth side talking about how to provide wealth management services to clients. That could be investing related, process management related, how you run your firm, and everything from succession planning to how to brand yourself on social media, to what to invest in. And then the stack side is the technology aspect of the conference, because you need your technology stack.

ETF.com: What led you into financial advising? How did you start?

duQuesnay: That's a long and winding road. I went to college to major in dance. I was a ballet dancer and ended up deciding I should probably get two majors if I were going to major in dance, and ended up really only majoring in business finance concentration. And I’ve  worked in wealth management my entire career.

I was hired out of college to join a team at a brokerage firm, worked there for 5 ½ years until the financial crisis, when I was laid off. Then I joined an RIA firm in New York, where I learned financial planning and took my CFP, and it's been 10 years since. I joined Ritholtz Wealth Management over a year ago.

ETF.com: I’ve read that it's difficult for advisory firms to find younger advisors coming out of college and getting into wealth management, just finding the new generation of advisors. Do you see and hear that?

duQuesnay: Yes, I think there’s a shortage of young people. The average advisor is 59 ½. If you look at the data on how many certified financial planners are under age 40 and how many CFA [chartered financial analyst] holders are under age 40, we know that there are fewer people entering the business.

But on the flip side, what you've seen is the creation of financial planning degrees at universities. So my alma mater, University of Georgia, didn't have a financial planning degree when I was there, but they do now. They have one of the best programs in the country. Texas Tech, Kansas State, Virginia Tech are some of the top.

There are certainly people who are interested and who are going to college to get a degree in personal financial planning. But without a doubt, we need more people to enter the industry. I think when I was coming out of school, finance was very popular, but everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Today finance is very unpopular, and everybody wants to work for a tech company.

I do think it's a challenge to find young people who want to be financial advisors.

ETF.com: Let's talk about your philosophy as an advisor. You wrote a blog on why you should fire your male broker: 1) what did you want to get out of that piece; and 2) when it comes to male/female advisors, is there a significant difference?

duQuesnay: It’s really the fact that, for over the 15 years I've been an advisor, the ratio of women to men in the industry has remained steady at about 20% [women]. So we're not seeing progress there like you're seeing in other fields, such as law and medicine. Even in engineering we're seeing progress.

I was trying to point out to women who may be considering their career options that being a financial advisor is an excellent option. It's a work/life balance that you may not get in medicine or law. And what's not advertised, really, is that it's an opportunity to help people—to help people figure out how to pay for college, how to retire when they want to.

The industry is mostly portrayed as people trying to make money and trade and pick the best stocks and the winning investments. But financial planning is much more about creating goal-based plans and figuring out how people are going to meet their goals.

ETF.com: And in terms of how you get your clients, do they come to you? What is the recruitment process?

duQuesnay: Well, we're a very unique situation, because our clients are reaching out to us because they have already been reading our blogs or have seen Josh [Brown] on television or have heard Barry [Ritholtz] on Bloomberg Radio or read one of our books or have seen one of our YouTube videos. So people are reaching out to us.

They already know what we do, what our philosophy is what our business model is. So, we're in a very fortunate position as advisors, where these names are handed to us and we reach out to them, and see if they're a good fit for our firm. I wouldn't say that that's the norm in the industry by any means.

ETF.com: How many clients do you work with?

duQuesnay: I personally am working with about 35 families. An advisor at our firm will probably work with between 80 and 100 families based on the amount of time it takes to service those families. I've been at the firm just over a year, and I've added over 20 families.

But we’re a team-based approach. So the advisor is the primary relationship management contact, but if clients want to talk in more detail about their investments, they might talk to Barry Ritholtz, Michael Batnick or Ben Carlson. If they have a tax question, they’ll work with our CFO Bill Sweet. Patrick Haley is the head of our trading department; he works with clients on transactions. So they're really hiring the whole team, and the advisor is the primary relationship manager.

ETF.com: Going back to the conference, will you be on stage?

duQuesnay: Yes. I'm really excited to interview Allison Schrager on Sunday night at WealthStack. She is the author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel,” which is a very fascinating concept.

I’m also excited to hear about all of the conversations she had with different types of risk-takers, whether it's horse breeders or professional poker players, but also to talk to her about her primary research, which is how to fund and pay for retirement. I think that her research in that area is very fascinating.

Another can't-miss session is the breakfast clash of the ETF pundits with [ETF.com Managing Director] Dave Nadig and a variety of other people from the industry. That is going to be a fascinating breakfast conversation.

ETF.com: That'll wake everyone up, for sure.

Drew Voros has nearly 30 years' experience in financial journalism. He was a longtime business editor for the Oakland Tribune and sister papers of the Bay Area News Group, and finance writer for the Hollywood trade publication Variety. Voros' past roles have also included editor-in-chief at etf.com and ETF Report.