I didn’t know when I woke up on New Year’s morning 2018, that this would be a year of dramatic change. In hindsight, the move to Ritholtz Wealth Management has been obvious for years. Just check how many of my twitter followers correctly guessed it would be my next move. As my mentor, Michael Goodman, recently told me, careers are long. My career journey has had several chapters, and each and every one of them have enriched me. I am most grateful for my most recent position as Chief Investment Officer of ThirtyNorth Investments. The past five years at ThirtyNorth were transformative. My colleagues encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, and I grew as an investor, planner, and advisor. I am proud of the work we did for clients together, and I will miss daily interaction with those colleagues.
So how did I end up at Ritholtz Wealth Management? That story dates back more than 13 years. I was a young sales assistant in a Manhattan brokerage firm. One of the clients of the brokers I worked for was Barry Ritholtz. I remember receiving a tutorial on Barry before speaking to him. He was a famous analyst, author, and contributor on CNBC, Bloomberg, and others. Needless to say, I was nervous the first time Barry called and asked me to place a trade in his account. (I jinxed it, but that’s another story. Barry never placed another trade with me.)
Fast forward to 2011 when I opened a Twitter account. I’d since been laid off from the brokerage firm in the depths of the financial crisis. What I thought was a major failure turned out to be the best thing that ever happened for my career. I was quickly hired by an RIA firm, Wealthstream Advisors, in Manhattan where I learned to become a financial planner. On Twitter, I quickly became a follower of Josh Brown. His mantra on the perils of commission-based sales rang true to my brokerage firm upbringing and subsequent transformation to the advisory side. I was impressed by Josh. He had more than 100,000 Twitter followers at that time and a wildly successful blog. On a 2012 trip to New York, I mustered the courage to ask Josh for a meeting. He agreed, and a real-life friendship began. When we were both on the 2015 Investments News 40 Under 40 list, I’ll never forget Josh introducing me to the other honorees as one of his friends. When I learned that Josh and Barry were working together, it piqued my interest.
At the first EBI conference in New York, I met Ben Carlson. He moderated a panel I was on about creating Organizational Alpha. I was already a casual reader of Ben’s blog, but meeting him in person, it was obvious he had a special talent for transforming complicated, disparate information into clear, coherent messages.
My son was born in February 2017. During those first hazy, sleep deprived days with a newborn, I checked Twitter to find out that both Bill Sweet and Michael Batnick had sons born within a week of mine. I remember tweeting something about; “It’s happening to everyone!” as the three of us shared baby announcements. I believe this to be the most beautiful coincidence and sign from the universe that I had a connection to this group.
For EBI West in Dana Point in June 2017, I managed to fit in a one-night trip to California to speak on a panel about the rise of ESG investing. It was my first night away from my then 4-month-old son. Coincidentally, this was the first time I met Perth Tolle, who was a fellow panelist. If you don’t know about Perth, you should. She is breaking new ground in the International and Emerging Markets ESG space. At the conference, I finally met Kris Venne. Like me, Kris spent his formative years on a team at a brokerage firm. He learned financial planning and earned his CFP®. Among the million things we have in common, we also have a share passion for live music of the jam band variety.
After the conference ended, I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight. The entire Ritholtz team and I (plus Morgan Housel!) relaxed by the iconic pool at the Monarch Beach resort. I even took the photo of the team that became the backdrop for the firm’s social media accounts. It just felt right. At the time, I didn’t allow myself to give in to that gut feeling.
Fast forward to March 2018. At the last minute, I am asked to step in as moderator of the CFA Wealth Management Conference in Los Angeles. One of the panels I moderated was about incorporating goals-based planning in a wealth management practice. One of the panelists referred to George Kinder’s Three Questions. The Three Questions are a powerful technique for helping clients prioritize what matters most to them in life. I asked myself these three questions a few years ago, and the outcome was the birth of my son about a year later. I decided to revisit the Three Questions for myself to determine if there was anything new to learn about my priorities. What resulted was an epiphany that led me to turn my life upside down. Shortly thereafter, Josh Brown posted a blog about this failure to add female advisors to his firm. The rest is history.
For years I’ve watched a group of talented people build a world-class wealth management firm. Each member of this team brings additional skills and resources to serve our clients. I’ve compared the firm to the Dream Team, and others have referenced the Wu-Tang Clan. However you choose to define us, know that we are all dedicated to revolutionizing the financial services experience for our clients and for all investors. I can’t wait to look back on this decision in a few years and see how much perfect sense it made.