Name: Ron Carson
Firm: The Carson Group
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
What you need to know: After breaking off a 28-year partnership with LPL in 2016, famed airplane pilot and financial advice rock star Ron Carson had a busy 2017, in which he sold a 29% stake of his business to private equity shop Long Ridge Equity Partners and his senior managers. This was followed by 2018, during which Carson told Citywire he was in the process of adding 18 firms to the roster of 56 RIAs, which make up the $5.4 billion Carson Group Partners network.
They say: ‘No one has emerged in the wealth management space to be a consumer advocate, to talk about total consumer transparency and being as conflict-free as possible. The time is right. We will be a household name within 10 years.’
Name: Ric Edelman
Firm: Edelman Financial Services
Location: Fairfax, Virginia
What you need to know: When we caught up with the industry luminary, Edelman was working to merge his firm into 401(k) plan advisor Financial Engines, with the backing of private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. The combined firm, which currently manages around $191 billion in assets, is the largest RIA in the country. Edelman is the company’s biggest individual shareholder after the deal closed in July 2018.
They say: ‘I’ve been predicting for some time that one day we will see a trillion-dollar RIA. We’ve seen big box brokerage firms: Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo. They already manage trillions of dollars in assets. We see mutual fund companies manage trillions of dollars in assets. You’re going to see an RIA with trillions of dollars in assets too.’
Names: Josh Brown and Barry Ritholtz
Firm: Ritholtz Wealth Management
Location: New York, NY
Date: September 17
What you need to know: Ritholtz and Brown built an RIA that went from zero to nearly $1 billion in assets on the backs of their prodigious presences on social media. The two are willing to call out brokers, regulators and anyone else who makes investing more complicated than it needs to be. Naturally, the pair have attracted a host of like-minded advisors and clients to their firm, including Blair duQuesnay.
They say: ‘Wall Street is a giant bullshit machine. It’s not just Wall Street, it’s everything. The entire corporate firmament is trying to sell shit to the public. It’s helpful for investors to have a group of people saying: “That is bullshit, you should ignore it. This matters, pay attention to this.” I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. We want people to focus on what is true and what matters and to ignore the stuff that’s provably false, distracting and nonsensical.’ (Ritholtz)
Names: J. Fielding Miller and Kevin Barry
Firm: Captrust Financial Advisors
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Date: October 1
What you need to know: Miller and Barry boast that RIA powerhouse Captrust Financial Advisors represents roughly 85 NFL players. This, combined with the fact that they’ve totaled over 30 acquisitions since launching in 1997, is part of the reason the firm has grown to 159 advisors, 37 locations and $16.5 billion in assets under management.
They say: ‘We probably have more first-round NFL players from the past 10 years than any other financial advisors. We deal with some entertainers, some coaches and others in similar areas. It’s a good type of niche business that we’ve been pretty blessed with.’ (Miller)
Name: Phil Huber
Firm: Huber Financial Advisors
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Date: October 15
What you need to know: Wrestling aficionado Huber joined his family business in 2008 after being laid off from a wholesaling job for an asset manager during the financial crisis. After learning the ropes under firm president Rob Morrison, Huber has developed an investment portfolio of 10 core models which emphasize factor-based and value equity investing and traditional fixed income management.
They say: ‘It’s never fun to get laid off, but I already had it in my head that the role wasn’t right for me in the long term, so I was also a bit relieved. It opened my eyes a bit and I realized, “You know what, I should give it a shot at Huber Financial. I’m young enough that if it works out, great, I’ve found my path, but if not, I’ve got time to figure out what does work for me.” Fortunately, looking back now, I’m happy to say it has been a wonderful ride.’
Name: Ivan Hernandez, Steven Wagner and Michael Wagner
Firm: Omnia Family Wealth
Location: Aventura, Florida
Date: October 29
What you need to know: Run by a father-and-son duo, Steven and Michael Wagner, Omnia is a multi-family office with $1.7 billion in assets under management for 50 high-net-worth clients. Over the past decade, they have jumped from UBS to Merrill Lynch in 2009 and from Merrill to independence in 2015, when they launched Omnia Family Wealth with the backing of Dynasty Financial Partners. Steven Wagner refers to co-founder and managing director of wealth structure and planning Ivan Hernandez as his surrogate son.
They say: ‘Back at UBS, we saw we had a lot of philosophical alignment. Steven’s integrity and the business that he built were incredibly attractive to me, and I wanted to build something greater than even the two of us combined.’
Names: David La Placa and Jay Casey
Firm: Intellectus Partners
Location: San Francsico, California
Date: November 12
What you need to know: La Placa and Casey have deep Silicon Valley roots, which translate directly over into the investment proposition they offer to their clients at Intellectus. The two first met at Lehman Brothers as they built out wealth management services for top tech executives and schmoozed with venture capital firms. These days, La Placa and Casey make their own direct equity investments in growing companies, alongside hedge funds, SMAs and traditional mutual funds and ETFs.
They say: ‘Most of the people that I’ve talked to in the industry are afraid of [technology]. They’re afraid it’s gonna take their jobs and create price compression. But I’ve never been so excited about this industry in my entire career.’ (La Placa)
Name: Tim Kaijala
Firm: O’Brien Wealth Partners
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Date: November 26
What you need to know: Kaijala’s roundabout career has taken him from semi-professional track, to Fidelity, to law firm Ropes & Gray and finally to Boston-based O’Brien Wealth Partners. Now treading the line between working directly with clients and burying himself in data, Kaijala looks to active funds first as he constructs client portfolios, which use a mixture of mutual funds and ETFs across the fixed income and equity asset classes, along with a sprinkling of alternative investments.
They say: ‘We want to look at an asset class and see if it makes sense for our clients. Once it makes sense to express that idea, we want to see if we can find an active manager who can beat their benchmark over time in that area. If we can, great. If we can’t, we’ll buy an index for as little as possible.’
Name: Doug Huber
Firm: North American Management
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Date: December 10
What you need to know: Huber heads the investment research department of $1.5 billion North American Management, which started out as a single family office over 90 years ago. Today, Huber and the research team are responsible for sourcing strategies that populate portfolios for the firm’s 457 clients. He and his team have created a recommended list 62 strategies from 32 asset managers, made up of 26 mutual funds, 22 ETFs, 10 hedged funds and four private equity strategies.
They say: ‘The goal in anything is to avoid making the same mistakes going forward and to put the best things on the plate. Likewise, it sucks when a particular fund evaluation doesn’t go your way, but you cut bait, move on and hopefully you find the winner next time.’