The Long View
The Long View
Jun 26, 2019
Josh Brown: 'Standardize the Process, Personalize the Advice'
Play • 53 min

Our guest on this week's episode of the Long View is none other than Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management. Brown's story is unique and inspiring. He began his career as a broker but grew disillusioned with the industry's skewed incentives and practices, eventually pursuing a career as an independent Registered Investment Advisor. Along the way, Brown managed to author an acclaimed book, Backstage Wall Street, and build an enormous following around his blog, "The Reformed Broker," as well as his twitter handle, @reformedbroker. Now he oversees Ritholtz's day-to-day operations in addition to his other duties, which include serving as a regular contributor on CNBC, as a member of fintech firm BrightScope's advisory board, and most recently as a technical advisor on the Showtime hedge fund drama Billions.

Introduction and Background 

Origin Story
"A personal crisis." Josh describes the epiphany he had in leaving the brokerage industry for the advice business after 10 years (1:20-3:41).

"It worked immediately." How the Reformed Broker blog was born and led to a chance meeting with Barry Ritholtz, which gave rise to an RIA (3:42-5:21). 

The Advice Business
"If they haven’t figured it out by now, they probably don’t want to." Observations on how the advice business has changed (5:22-7:29).

"Brokerages in name only." Why wirehouse clients aren't necessarily being ill-served by the system (7:30-8:09). 

Lending: The key difference between a fee-based account at a Wall Street wirehouse and a fee-based account at a traditional RIA (8:10-10:34).

How to Provide Financial Advice
Telling the client "no." The difference between pushing product and offering advice (10:35-12:16).

"It's recreation; it's not a necessity." Helping clients to scratch an itch without putting their financial plans at risk (12:17-14:53).

"Financial planning is the highest calling within our profession." Ensuring clients get past the firm's public persona and truly buy into its plan and approach (14:54-16:46).

An ensemble approach to delivering advice to clients: The anti "eat what you kill." (16:47-18:58).

How to Build an Advice Firm
"Barry and I don't spread out a map like Napoleon and start sticking thumb-tacks in it." How Brown thinks about strategically expanding the firm (19:04-20:45).

"If somebody comes to us in a rush, it's probably a bad situation, and we don't want anything to do with it." The advisor recruitment and weeding-out process (20:46-24:23).

Portfolio Construction and Asset Allocation
"You're going to lose money. It's gonna happen. There's no way around it." The firm's approach to allocating assets and setting client expectations (24:24-27:33).

Tactical asset allocation's role in their process: "We don't believe in investment alpha using tactical." (27:34-29:33) 

"What if you had a tactical model that almost never did anything?" How they built their tactical-asset-allocation overlay to help manage client behavior (29:34-33:13).

"I hope it underperforms, because most of our clients' money is not invested in tactical." (33:14-35:03)

"Every client is different, but their needs are not." Implementing a scalable asset allocation (35:04-37:08).

"You want to be wrong in such a way that it's not going to be catastrophic for the end client." How Ritholtz sets capital-markets expectations (37:09-38:41).

Managing Client Assets
How Ritholtz approaches assets that clients bring in with them: "You've got a human being with their own issues." (38:42-40:58) 

"The longer I'm doing this, the more stuff I want to take out, not add." Brown explains why they err on the side of excluding various types of investments from client portfolios (40:59-42:33).

"Our clients are here because they want us." Brown says fee pressure hasn't been an issue for the firm (42:34-44:22). 

The Future of Advice
"You're being judged on the portfolio, you should get paid on the portfolio you recommend." Brown is dubious of clients who aren't willing to pay for advice as a percentage of assets under advisement (44:23-46:50).

How a chocolatier's success reinforced the importance of consistency in client interactions: "Standardize the process, personalize the advice." (46:51-50:25) 

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Sarah Newcomb, Ph.D., is a behavioral economist for Morningstar. In this role, she works to integrate the findings of her research into Morningstar's financial management applications and tools. Sarah has expertise in consumer psychology, economic decision-making, personal money management, and cognitive and social psychology. Before joining Morningstar in 2015, Sarah earned her doctorate in behavioral economics from the University of Maine, where her work focused on the psychological barriers to sound personal money management. She is the author of LOADED: Money, Psychology, and How to Get Ahead without Leaving Your Values Behind (Wiley, 2016). This podcast is hosted by Rick Ferri, CFA, a long-time Boglehead and investment adviser. The Bogleheads are a group of like-minded individual investors who follow the general investment and business beliefs of John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group. It is a conflict-free community where individual investors reach out and provide education, assistance, and relevant information to other investors of all experience levels at no cost. The organization supports a free website at Bogleheads.org, and the wiki site is Bogleheads® wiki. Since 2000, the Bogleheads' have held national conferences in major cities around the country. There are also many Local Chapters in the US and even a few Foreign Chapters that meet regularly. New Chapters are being added on a regular basis. All Bogleheads activities are coordinated by volunteers who contribute their time and talent. This podcast is supported by the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy, a non-profit organization approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity on February 6, 2012. Your tax-deductible donation to the Bogle Center is appreciated.
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