From around the country and across the globe, nearly 3,000 attendees descended on Huntington Beach, California, for the second-ever Future Proof, the open-air beachfront wealth conference put on by financial services incubator Advisor Circle and RIA Ritholtz Wealth Management.
Opening Sunday afternoon and closing today (Wednesday), the event was billed as a way “to give the entire wealth management ecosystem a place to come together … and have a lot of fun, too.” So how did it go, and what did participants think about year two of “the world’s biggest wealth festival”?
Financial Planning made the rounds to find out what attendees and presenters thought — and heard from one of the festival founders, who let us know what’s next for Future Proof. (Hint: You may not have to wait 12 months for the next installment.)
Big stages, big news, big ideas
Perhaps one of the most anticipated announcements of the event came during entrepreneur Joe Duran’s Monday morning, main-stage panel. The RIA vet, who sold United Capital to Goldman Sachs in 2019 (only for the Wall Street giant to unload it four years later), broke the news of his next venture: Rise Growth Partners, set to launch early next year.
“The goal is very simple,” Duran told the audience. “Partner with the next generation of national funds, help them to build the business management systems, the technology stack and the growth strategies with a team of partners. … You keep 70% of the equity. We invest for 30%.”
Later, when Duran sat down with Financial Planning, he said the goal of Rise Growth Partners is to “help the next generation of advisory firms to become national firms.” The target client? “Advisors who have 15 years of runway left in the industry who built a billion-dollar-plus firm and who want to help become the next $10 billion firm. … We basically become the think tank that they can lean on to get to the next stage.”
The Rise team, Duran said, is now up to 10 partner-level hires, who will run category areas (e.g., tech, growth, business development) and lend their expertise to clients. Rise is in discussions with about 30 potential firms with a total of $50 billion in assets, according to Duran, who also said he had wanted to attend the 2022 Future Proof but “was an employee of Goldman, and they weren’t so comfortable with me talking.”
Duran’s chill demeanor (he’s a yogi with 25 years of hot-yoga practice under his belt) while discussing multibillion-dollar matters meshed well with the general vibe at Future Proof, where many wore shorts and flip flops. Advisor Circle CEO Matt Middleton, one of the brains behind Future Proof (and who served as moderator for Duran’s panel), preferred Gucci loafers — at least on Tuesday, when he spoke with Financial Planning.
One of the goals for this year’s event, he said, was to go bigger and better than 2022. For both new and returning participants, he wanted to be “blowing their minds.”
To that end, Future Proof introduced “Breakthru” meetings, a new format for tech-facilitated double-opt-in one-on-one chats between interested attendees. And they seemed popular: Under the shiny white tents at the north end of the conference campus, up to 700 people at a time were participating.
“There’s quite a roar there,” Middleton said of the noise generated by the sessions.
Dan Harding, CEO and founder of the Palo Alto, California-based tech platform WealthPRIME, was one attendee who took advantage of the speed-dating-like 15-minute meetings. Harding said he was at Future Proof to learn what’s new, sharpen his skill sets and spread the word about his firm’s latest offering — “a new technology platform that allows advanced retirement plan illustrations to be done instantaneously.”
Although Harding said the festival wasn’t his “perfect market,” he found the Breakthrus helpful for making industry contacts. By Monday afternoon, Harding said he had already made plans for a product meeting with one new connection and found a promising marketing contact in a U.K. influencer.
That Future Proof provided a chance to connect with a large but specific audience was ideal for Matt Venturi, CEO of ClearingBid, a startup that bills itself as the “world’s first IPO network.” Venturi took to the “Surf City Stage” on Wednesday morning to talk about ClearingBid and the “IPO revolution.”
“I knew this would be perfect for us,” said Venturi about Future Proof in an earlier interview with Financial Planning. “The broker-dealer community and registered investment advisor community is really — I call them my peeps, because they’re the ones who are going to significantly benefit from this new issue solution, to be able to provide their investors or clients with access to IPOs.” (ClearingBid, Venturi said, is now in a testing and deployment phase with brokerage firms.)
“The pulse of the industry”
Vrishin Subramaniam, founder of the Arlington, Virginia-based firm CapitalWe, traveled across the country for his second Future Proof festival.
“It’s gotten bigger and much better this year. I’m seeing a lot of an international crowd, which has been very exciting for me, considering I work with immigrants,” said Subramaniam, a financial planner. “I came to Future Proof to get a pulse of the industry.”
Subramaniam found a session by Taylor Kovar on money management for couples particularly instructive; he said he hoped to adapt what he learned into a quiz to help facilitate money-related conversations between his clients.
Jamie Nemtsas of the Melbourne, Australia-based advisory firm Wattle Partners, flew in for the conference with colleague and fellow CFP Drew Meredith. Joint managing directors, the pair said they made the trip to see what ideas they might bring back to Australia.
READ MORE: Envestnet debuts slew of platform enhancements during Future Proof 2023
“This is like a trade fair for financial planners,” said Nemtsas. “I’ve never seen that format before. And we liked the speakers. You get access to quality speakers in an informal environment. It’s been really good.”
Mitchell cited the live taping of the podcast “Animal Spirits” as one of his high points. Next year, Nemtsas said, he plans to attend again — and to bring along 40 of his firm’s advisors.
Though the festival is planned with an emphasis on fun and entertainment — from the casual atmosphere and abundance of food trucks and booze to the wandering stilt-walkers and rap concert — that wasn’t a priority for many attendees. Despite the outward appearance, Future Proof 2023 was a business-first event with hundreds of exhibitors and speakers for guests to try to get to.
“It is definitely not for the faint of heart. In my opinion, this conference is for people who are serious-minded about taking action steps. It’s not meant to be a vacation,” said Julie Broady on Tuesday afternoon.
READ MORE: Big Boi’s stellar Future Proof performance met with fist pumping, polite nodding
Broady, a financial advisor with San Diego-based Kingswood Capital Management and Kingswood Wealth Advisors, felt the event “exceedingly” met her expectations for discovering new ways to grow her business. “I’ve met some amazing partners here that are just interested in growing, and growing with me,” she said, name-checking FLX Networks, Dimensional Fund Advisors and Capital Group in particular. At the conference for the first time this year, Broady had already decided she’ll return in 2024.
Brandon Clark, head of business development and an investment advisor at the Dana Point, California-based RIA Clark Group Asset Management, was on the lookout for insights at Future Proof — as well as for potential new junior advisors for his firm, knowing that finance students were among the attendees.
“I’m looking to plant seeds with people like that or young advisors in the industry,” said Clark, who also said he wanted to “gain business development information from people who’ve expanded and grown their RIAs.” Clark said he first heard about the event via “The Compound & Friends”— an investing podcast co-hosted by Ritholtz CEO and Future Proof co-founder Josh Brown. As to what else the conference had to offer, Clark stayed focused on business.
READ MORE: Orion debuts AI-powered portfolio comparison tool at Future Proof 2023
“I’m really actually just here to learn, but if there’s a sprinkle of fun thrown in, absolutely I’ll participate.”
Senior wealth advisor Al Faber of the Ramona, California-based Woodson Wealth Management was of a similar mindset.
“What I think has been great is there were actual practitioners that are sharing best practices pretty openly — what’s working, what’s not working for them. And that’s been helpful,” he said.
Faber cited marketing tips and specifics about social media platforms and tools, such as for video editing, as concrete pieces of knowledge he learned at Future Proof that he plans to implement in his practice.
So, what’s next?
The waitlist for Future Proof 2024 is already live. Returning to the beachside location in Huntington Beach, it will take place Sept. 15-18.
But you may not have to wait that long for your next Future Proof hit.
Next March, a “smaller, more intimate” experience — Future Proof Breakthru Retreat — will be held at the mountainside Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Middleton said.
“Half of each day will be outdoors, shared experiences as groups. The other half will be (indoor) community content in the forms of roundtables and more engaging sessions, as well as one-to-one meetings.”
Tickets, however, will be harder to come by.
Middleton said the event will be limited to 500 attendees, who’ll need to apply to participate. When it comes to advisors seeking an invitation, Middleton said favor might fall to those making big decisions for their firms. On the industry side, “We’re pretty calculated to get a good balance between asset managers, fintech companies and other service providers, so that you create that true marketplace for the one-to-one meeting dynamic.”