Ep. 185: A Breakthrough in Maximizing Conference Networking with Matt Middleton, Advisor Circle

Come on in and sit back relax, you’re listening to Episode 185 of the WealthTech Today podcast. I’m your host, Craig Iskowitz, founder of Ezra Group Consulting and this podcast features interviews, news and analysis on the trends and best practices all around Wealth Management Technology.

My guest today is Matt Middleton, co founder and CEO of Advisor Circle. Matt is also the co-producer, along with Josh Brown, of the Future Proof wealthtech festival. Matt is a serial conference builder, he has created and sold multiple conferences including WealthStack conference, and before that the Inside ETFs conference. I’ve never heard of a serial conference builder, that’s impressive! We’ve got a great interview for you today, we covered the incubator, the product incubator that Advisor Circle is running, as well as a new software product that Advisor Circle themselves is launching to help revolutionize how you meet people at conferences.

If you’re impressed by that and you’re an executive at a broker dealer, an asset manager or an enterprise RIA you should run not walk to a website, EzraGroupllc.com and fill out the Contact Us form on the homepage to meet with us about your technology platform issues. Our experienced team can assist with software vendor evaluations systems integrations, improving operational efficiency, software implementations and a whole lot more. You can take advantage of our free initial consultation offer by going to EzraGroupllc.com. Now, let’s kick this thing off!

Topics Mentioned

  • A Product Studio
  • Breakthrough: The Conference Meetup App
  • A Startup Incubator
  • What’s Different at Future Proof This Year?

Episode Transcript

Craig: I’m stoked to introduce our next guest on the program. It is co-founder and CEO of Advisor Circle, Matt Middleton. Hey Matt. Welcome.

Matt: Hey, Craig. Thanks for having me.

Craig: It’s great for you to be here. I’m glad we could coordinate this. Matt, where are you calling in from?

Matt: So, I am in central Massachusetts about 30 miles west of Boston. I’m a New Yorker at heart though, so I always make a point to say that I spent most of my life in New York. My wife is from Massachusetts. So I bit the bullet and the things you do for love.

Craig: There you go. Well, it’s finally getting nice up there.

Matt: Yeah. It is. It is.

Craig: Is the snow melting?

Matt: Yeah. So it was actually interesting because this year, while it was cold most days, we didn’t really get a lot of snow. Which is funny because I grew up a city kid, but where we live, we are about half hour away from a mountain, half hour away from the city. And so that was one of the selling points of, it’s better to raise a family and you have all these things and much of what I think of New England I haven’t been able to experience in the last four years. So yeah, I’m still waiting for that big snowstorm.

Craig: Well, the most important part about moving to New England, you didn’t become a Patriots fan, did you?

Matt: No. So and my son, he’s 100% Giants fan, to the point where he wears a Giants jersey almost every week to school. And my wife, he’s seven. So my wife is always talking about, you can’t let him do that. He’s going to get bullied, he’s going to get picked on. I’m like, no. This is the world we live in. You made me move. I select the teams.

Craig: Right. Yes. You choose location. I choose sports.

Matt: Exactly,

Craig: Exactly. Yeah, I know how he feels. I live in Woodbridge, New Jersey, so Northern New Jersey where everyone here is Giants fans, a couple Jets fans sprinkled around, and I’m an Eagles fan, so I feel him. I feel him.

Matt: You know what’s funny? So I spent a lot of time in Woodbridge, and I find Woodbridge is the cut-off point in New Jersey where it could go either way. You could be a giant Jets fan or you could be the Eagles fan, and it’s very hard when you’re out and about making that assumption. I’ve learned the hard way a couple of times where I’m like, oh, yeah, I’m a diehard Giants fan, so I’m talking about the Giants. And then it’s like, yeah, wrong audience.

Craig: Read the room man.

Matt: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Craig: Excellent. All right, so we’re going to do a separate sports radio talk podcast later, but let’s just jump into advisor circle. Can you give us a 30-second elevator pitch?

Matt: Yeah, so it’s interesting. Most people who know me will probably know me as the creator of Future Proof, which is the world’s largest wealth festival. But I think it’s important to talk about really what Advisor Circle is, because that’s the engine that produces Future Proof. Advisor Circle is a influential and culturally relevant product studio. And our thesis is really, we want to build products and develop partnerships with people who have a vision for building a modern wealth management and financial services industry. And that’s a very philosophical statement, but really our kind of belief or thesis is that the industry that is financial services could be way different than it is today. And it needs to be, and it could be more creative, it could have more impact, it could be more innovative, and of course it could be more fun, and so we simply build products that push the world in that direction.

A Product Studio

Craig: I don’t know of any other companies in our space that describe themselves as a product studio. So I think it’s an innovative name, an innovative way to look at things. When you talk about that you are a culturally relevant tech enabled, product developer. Can you give us an example, like you’ve created some other products before? What’s the previous product you built in and what gave you the impetus to build that?

Matt: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, Advisor Circle has been established or been around since fall of 2020. So at that time, think of it, we are in the midst of Global Pandemic, you’re pretty much spending most of the time with your loved ones in your own home. The world was shut down. And so at that point, we looked at it and looked at our space and said, well, there’s a few different things that we think long-term will play out one from an event space. So, just to kind of take it a step back, my team, we’re a team of 12. My team has decades of experience within asset management, financial advice, FinTech, financial media, B2B events, NPR. And so it’s an interesting intersection of kind of expertise, if you will.

When you start to think about the products that we look to create to date we have really three brand products, or we have two current one we sold. So the first product out of Advisor Circles Product Studio was Exchange, which is now known as the world’s largest ETF conference. It was a joint venture partnership at the time a company called ETF Flows. From ideation to exit, for us, it was a about an 18-month period of time. And at that point we were able to fight the realities of not being able to get in person, establish a large scale event by large scale, I mean over a thousand people attending and now it is known as the world’s most influential and largest ETF conference. And so it brings over 1600 attendees, mostly financial advisors. It brings the entire ETF ecosystem together annually.

When we launched that, it’s our background, a couple of us have some history in the ETF space specifically. So it was a passion. We have a huge Rolodex in that space, but when we looked at the market, we basically realized that live events were going to come back and that they were going to be more meaningful. And so at that time, if you recall fall 2020, most of the time people — most of the talk was hybrid events, right? Or digital only and that live events are dead because why would you ever risk your health by traveling across the country for a few days? Or why would you ever leave the convenience of your home or away from your family? And I think the reality is that while the virtual world offers us a lot of amazing benefits it doesn’t solve the full need of what live events do, right? Which is connecting people, allowing you to grow your business, allowing you to get out of the norm and the structure of your life and push boundaries, right?

Our thesis was with all of the live events we’ve created to date is actually building more modern platform and give people a reason for wanting to come together and actually break down the fragmentation in silos that typically happen within these live events. And so, to date, we have Exchange, which again, as I mentioned, we sold that in October last year. And they’re running that. And I actually attended as an attendee this past February was an amazing event. We have Future Proof, which is the world’s largest wealth festival. Last year we had over 1700 people attend. This year we’re planning for 3,200.

We have a new technology that integrates, it’s interesting because it could operate horizontally through our existing businesses and events, or it could be a vertical business itself, and that’s called Breakthrough. And really when you think about breakthrough, what that is, it solves a very important need for live events, which is most live events are hard to quantify in terms of value and ROI. And that’s no matter where you are. So if you’re an attendee participating, you’re met with so much excitement, there’s a lot of activity, you’re getting inundated with content people, business cards, and then in the moment you’re like, wow, this is the best experience. What typically then happens, and I’m sure you face this as well, is you leave there and you’re like, wow, what are the take-aways? There’s too many. I look at my notes; I don’t remember everything. Maybe I lost a couple of business cards. And then you go on to the next thing.

And then for sponsors the same way, right? People spent a lot of money participating in these events. And for the most part, it’s very qualitative in terms of the feeling towards the ROI, right? You expect an attendee list. It’s usually stale or stagnant on arrival. You then create this situation where you are going into it and just shipping emails and trying to get momentum. And ultimately you come back and you’re waiting for salespeople to say, was that a good event? Or was I next to the coffee? Was it good traffic? And so breakthrough, and we’ll get into more of this, but Breakthrough looks to solve much of the need of live events and providing real value and real connections.

Craig: You jumped way ahead of me, man. I had a whole bunch of questions, you just answered them.

Matt: And the podcast is over.

Craig: And we’re done. That’s a wrap. Nice to meet you, Matt. So let’s roll this back. The product studio, you created Exchange. In 18 months, you sold it, then you start now that Exchange is an event you sold. The Future Proof is an Event, but Breakthrough is a piece of software, which is a conference meeting app that’s very different than the other two. 

Matt: Yes.

Breakthrough: The Conference Meetup App

Craig: So how do you describe that and why is this app different from all the other conference apps that I can set up meetings with Umbrella, the little plugin and see the agenda, what is going to be better or revolutionary about Breakthrough that’s going to want me to use it at every conference?

Matt: Yeah, so Breakthrough solves the biggest need, which is meeting and just discovering meeting and maximizing the time onsite. So most of these other apps or meeting softwares at events, they will throw in the magnificent buzzword of 2023, which is AI, and they are the greatest matchmaking software in the world and frankly, we’re not that. What we did is take 15 to 20 years of experience and running live B2B events in the wealth management space and built a system that affords people the ability to maximize their time. And so let’s talk about the process of it. Most people talk about, and my belief, and I’m sure you probably agree, is like, if you have to lead in with like, here’s what the technology is, it actually is not great technology, right? We talk about the outcome, what does it solve?

And so live events, let’s talk about the older current model with live events. So live events, you sign up whatever period of time before the event, and then you forget about it. And typically what happens is two weeks before the event, the app, the announcement comes out, you download an app and you start to hopefully plan your schedule. Book them the sessions you want to attend, you start to see who else that you may know or who else you might want to meet with at the event and start messaging them. And that’s a lot of work to create a successful pre-event strategy alongside all of the other things you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. And then of course, on site, your schedule just goes crazy because maybe you bumped into someone and you know that one-minute passing turns into a 15-minute conversation and now you’re late for your session or you’re late for your next meeting and then it’s a snowball effect.

For what we did with Breakthrough is say, how do we solve the most basic needed with people want to meet with others. That’s why they’re coming to live events, host pandemic. You could argue content, which used to be the sole purpose or the most important purpose for people attending events is secondary to meeting and discovering and getting business done or partnerships done. And so when thinking about that, what we did with Breakthrough is we integrated it into everything we do. So within our registration process, we already start to collect unique data that allows us to present individuals and companies to other attendees at the event for the purposes of meeting. And so through registration and through what we call profile completion stage, which is a moment in time, about two months before the event, we collect about 120 unique data points on each individual attendee.

We then take that data, we validate it and verify it, and then we present it into an application. And it effectively is LinkedIn sales navigator meets match.com without the cringe. And at that point, what it does is psychologically changes the dynamic of how you perceive live events, which is usually it’s a three to four-day experience or two-day experience. And in this case, now it becomes a two to three-month experience because six to eight weeks before the event, you now have completed your profile stage, and now you’re starting to see all of the other attendees, all of the other companies that are participating alongside you at this event. You cannot message them.

Again, it’s not to distract or just create another social media, classes social media platform. But what it does is, it allows you to segment the audience, understand who’s coming and it creates a series of prompts, which is, would you wanna meet with this person? I highly interested, somewhat interested, or there’s no prompt at all, which means there’s no interest. And then each week what we do is we pushed out those requests to other people. And so each week everyone logs in all together at the same time, and you’re getting met with a whole series of people that have requested meetings with you. Simply approve or put a maybe. And then the other — and then there’s a series of prompts which basically guides you to say, if you’re looking to meet with a hundred people, you probably should send 300 invites. And so each week what happens is you’re building momentum towards this moment in time where we’re all going to get together in person. And then the system where the magic really is not only the discovery, which was what I just explained, is the workflows within it that makes a really frictionless experience for you to maximize meetings on site.

Through the program, we’re going to have all attendees have the ability to have up to 24, 15-minute intro meetings with people. And the real magic is it’s double opt-in. So, you know both people coming to that meeting have mutual interest in connecting, and that could be for a whole host of different use cases. It could be buyer seller, right? Think about it. Advisor to asset manager, advisor to FinTech company, FinTech company to FinTech company. Because if they’re talking about partnerships and integrations, it could be private equity to advisor because maybe they’re looking to buy or focus on M&A activity. Or you start to, you know, someone like you, you’ve worked in this space for so long and you see the evolution of this space. You could start to see when you put 3000 plus people together that aren’t just one job function across a vast industry. How many different ways are there for those individuals to meet? And that’s really where the magic happens in the technology works.

Craig: You said a lot there, Matt, I’m taking notes. Where are you getting the 120 data points on each attendee? And what are you feeding that into? Is this some — is it like an AI machine learning system? What exactly is going on in the backend?

Matt: Yeah, so we’re very big on data here. I think one of the biggest issues with live events is lack of verified data. And we simply ask, so think about data. At most events it is — I go and register and I say, I’m Matt Middleton. And let’s say I go to an advisor event, I could say I’m a financial advisor. I could say I manage $5 billion. I could say I’m a CTO at that advisory firm. Most events take that as gospel, right? They simply say, okay, great, Matt Middleton, CTO of $5 million RIA, he’s coming to our event. And then that information is shared without my consent across the entire universe, right? And then it creates a whole series of inbound, unsolicited, inbound requests. And we do this song and dance, which is poor data creates poor experiences for everyone and creates zero results. And so what we did is saying the most important thing we could do, and for how breakthrough is really successful in working is we have to verify and validate this data as much as we can. And so what we do is we simply ask, so self-selected data, so registration and profile completion, you as a participant in the event is saying, I want to participate in the event. Here’s the data I need to provide in order to do that, and that allows us to decide which is the right ticket type obvious. The next step to this process is assuming you want to meet others at the event, you could sign up for breakthrough available for all attendees.

And that is another layer of data inputs, which is the profile completion stage. And in that part, we ask a whole series of questions about you, about your company, about what you’re looking to get out of the event this year. And we basically put all of that together, the registration data, alongside the profile data, and we create a unique user profile or unique company profile on each participant. And then that data is, when I say validator verified, we use various things for advisors. It’s ADV reporting. We scrape that and we validate it, we make sure through like LinkedIn and other things that they say who they are, who they say they are in both job function and title and also the firm. And then on the industry side, it’s doing due diligence on their products and offerings and et cetera. And so that we know that the data presented inside our system is accurate, because if not, meetings are useless if that data or the intention of agreeing to meet was based on false data, and so that’s how we do this. Again, I would love to say it’s magic of AI and machine learning. It’s not. It’s a high quality and strict data and a series of workflows that really bring the magic to breakthrough together.

Craig: I am interested to see how this works. So when will it be available?

Matt: So we’ll be starting to demo it early next month. So, early May to anyone who’s participating in future proof. And then really the app will become live mid-June and then the profile completion stage, and the whole process, as I mentioned, will start to take shape in early July into the event, which takes place early September.

Craig: Right? But there’s no messaging, so no one’s gonna message me. They’re not going to get flooded with emails in this app. It’s just people making meeting requests.

Matt: Yeah. We actually take it a step further. So if you participate in Breakthrough we are — so let’s talk about some of the hurdles. I think it’s important of why we did this because to your point earlier, there’s a lot of tools out there that claim to solve this need. What we looked at is let’s focus on the experience of all different parts — all different people that attend this event, right? And so let’s take the advisor who is our largest attendee participant. The financial advisor signs up to this event to learn to meet other advisors, right? This is a B2B event. That’s what they’re coming for. What typically happens is there’s a moment in time before the event where all sponsors get an attendee list. And now the experience of me an advisor is that I’m excited to be attending this event in a few weeks. And then out of nowhere, usually on an afternoon I’m getting a hundred plus emails depending on the number of sponsors that are at that event, asking me to meet with them to come by their booth to join their session, to do this meeting.

All great intention, right? But it’s feels, it’s unsolicited, and so it feels spammy. And so what that does then is create an in-person experience, which is, I’m a financial advisor. I don’t want to be sold to, I’m guarded. I’m not going to engage in the exhibits area as much until the last day when I have to pick up some tchotchkes for my kids, right? And like, we do this whole thing again, and so it’s just riddled with poor behaviors that create a poor experience on the advisor side. Now, flip it on the other side, right? The product provider side. These folks spend an enormous amount of money, enormous amount of time preparing for these events. And so of course they want to maximize their opportunity. It’s a great way to do it. The problem is they are get this attendee list, usually a few weeks out the data is not validated or cleaned up and so they spend a lot of time trying to take that spreadsheet, navigate it to their CRM and pull out anything that could be useful. Ultimately, they’re running out on time.

What tends to happen is they just take that list, they put it into MailChimp, and they send a series of emails out, and then you think about the volume. And so they’re left with a poor response, or maybe they’re just connecting with their current clients, not really opening up the opportunity for new clients that should be assessing. And so what we actually did with Breakthrough here is to say, Hey, all participants, there’s terms here, which is you are not allowed to go track this person down, send them an email. We’re going to provide the system and the outcome for you. So we’ll save you time, we’ll save you energy, and we’ll create a better experience for all parties, and so there’s no more attend list that’s delivered to the sponsors. Therefore, no more spam emails to advisors in advance. Advisors get to control, they get to decide who they wanna meet, right? Because it’s double opt-in.

Then for sponsors who are looking to create a, you know, what is my serviceable addressable market at this event? Well, it’s not a thousand advisors that the event bills, there’s probably a small subset of that that are my true prospects. Wouldn’t I want to know that? And with breakthrough, you can. You can do that in advance because if there’s no interest in meeting you very quickly decide that, all right, let me go spend my time, energy, and resource on this hundred people that could really move my business forward. And so obviously there’s a steep educational learning curve to this, but we built this to really solve this bigger issue with live events in our space, which is, it’s just a poor user experience all around.

Craig: It sounds fascinating. Let’s see if it works. I can’t wait to see my profile page.

Matt: Yeah.

Craig: With my 120 data points. But I do like that you are not — you’re getting rid of what I call the sponsor spam. Where you get these emails, Hey, I see you’re signed up for this conference, come see us in booth number 84,302 and check us out, and you get that over and over and over again before the conference. So definitely excited not to get the sponsor spam and see how this works and how you’re going to track it and how it’s gonna help deliver some better — but reasons we’re doing this is for networking. So you want to deliver better, more efficient networking through this app. And if you can do it, I see it becoming a very successful product.

Matt: Yeah. We’re excited about it.

A Startup Incubator

Craig: Let’s talk more about the product studio as an incubator. So you’re seeing this as more of an accelerator or a venture arm, like a Y-Combinator, those types of things you’re looking to bring in small companies and give them backing and support, or is it more of, Hey, we’re looking to just become more of a VC?

Matt: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. So to date, all of the products that are have been incubated through the product studio we’ve owned. Either a hundred percent have owned or owned 50%. Where you’ll see advisor circle kind of grow into in the back half of 2023 and some of the announcements we’ll have, which is we take minority stakes in established, but new businesses that are inside our wealth management ecosystem. And in those ways, there’s really three ways in which we participate with companies, right? We call it, there’s the pre-product market fit, and those are companies who maybe it’s an idea with strong founders or an opportunity to create a great product, but they don’t have the sales and marketing acumen. And so we come in and partner with them, and we take a stake in return for our service. And the goal here with all of the companies that we bring into the product studio, is that within a three-year time horizon we scale.

We as a partner come in and help you build and scale to a point in which you could stand alone. You don’t no longer need the services or the strategy of the product studio, and so the first part is pre-product market fit. We go from everything from product ideation to product strategy to go to market strategy, and then we help establish that. The second tier is there is, you know, you’re kind of post-market product market fit, which is, there’s an excitement around your product. You have some traction in terms of revenue. You are in a position of, I believe this business could double triple in the years to come. I just don’t have conviction on how to get there, and that’s where you would join the product studio. Where we again afford everyone the ability to help in strategy in actual services ourselves, and then in some cases deploy capital into that company to get them to that next stage and that next level. Ultimately after three-year time horizon, we almost pull out slowly into what that business could do because they’re at a trajectory that they can now be more self-sufficient. And then the last piece is us in more of a — there’s two really ways here. One is a passive investor. So your traditional kind of VC where we believe in a product, believe in its founders, believe there’s an opportunity there, but they don’t really need us. What they need is capital. And so what we do is we simply invest in that company and we help as a quasi-advisor role. And then there’s another way in which we believe that this company has the opportunity to grow, but it needs our full commitment, meaning that we need to be a 50% stakeholder, or we simply should acquire the business outright and bring this vision to life. And so in those cases, we would acquire an entity or we would take a significant stake within that company and create more of a partnership model.

Craig: It sounds like something people want to get involved in. Firms that are looking for this type of support should be reaching out to you.

Matt: It is. It’s interesting. We’ve had just on the back of future proof, we’ve had a lot of FinTech startups come to us and said, like, how are you able to attract 900 financial advisors to this event that focuses on this? How do we work with you to get more access to them? And so it’s funny because I think the value prop of the product studio is not only do we have a lot of experience as operators in this space, but we start to think about leveraging the other products in the studio. I think that’s where the power really comes, and the ability to not only, you know, it’s the ability to create one plus one equals three versus, you know, I’m sitting on my own island in a very competitive space, right? You and Michael Kitces do a phenomenal job with that FinTech map, but I’ve been in this space for 10 years. My screen almost doesn’t fit the map any longer, and so how do you compete in a very crowded space for attention and for market share? And so you start to think about, I need something that’s unique, and I think we provide with the product studio. A very unique way to go to market or to scale your business in ways that you couldn’t do yourself.

What’s Different at Future Proof This Year?

Craig: Speaking of launching new products, you and why people would want to come work with you. The fact that you were able to launch a brand new conference second new conference after the exchange ETF conference. But to launch the Future-Proof Festival and have it become a premier event right out of the gate, it’s got to impress a lot of people. Can we — let’s talk a bit about that. Last year you had, in the first version of it, 1700 attendees, pretty evenly split, senior advisors and service providers, which is also hard to do. Can you talk a little bit about what’s going to be different this year’s event and what can we expect?

Matt: Yeah, no, great question. So this year, so each year we have some key themes, and that is how we think about building the content and the agenda. That’s how we think about creating the experience quite literally onsite, the activations and how we connect people, and then of course, the community and who are the people that are there that would want to meet with each other. And so, this year are five key themes, the first one will probably be very unsurprising to most, which is, technology as an enabler. And we see the rise of Ai, and you know what that means, and there’s no shortage. You go on any social media platform. There’s no shortage of prompt experts or the AI’s going to take over the world and doomsday or huge opportunity. And so it’s noise.

And what we are looking to do is bringing experts within the industry as well as tech experts from outside of the industry that are AI experts into our event to help guide advisors and other participants in the space to navigate this technology, this AI opportunity and really what it means for wealth management. So that’s really the first, I would say, key theme. The next key theme is the uncertain macro environment, right? You start to think about this year, the last 16 months or so, way different than the last, let’s call it, a decade before it. And what does that actually mean for financial advisors? Especially financial advisors that are in their 30s or early 40s, most have never experienced something that we are experiencing now and having conversations with their clients. And so what we’re doing is bringing leading chief economist from some of the largest global blast asset managers together to help calm the nerves of financial advisors and better support them in having those conversations with their clients. The third is democratization of alternatives, right? It seems like there is both the supply and the demand interest, right? There’s a lot of alternative asset managers that are looking at the advisor, the intermediary market and saying, well, hey, from an institutional side of things, like there’s a finite number of clients. Where do I go when I’m looking to raise my next fund or I’m looking to do certain things? Well, this intermediary market specifically, the RIA is very attractive to them, right? And then on the demand side, we’ve seen over the last couple of years the rise of so many different alternative investing opportunities and the demand from end clients to advisors on putting that into their portfolio, getting access, their exposure or protecting them in that is challenging for advisors. And so for us, it’s not only the, let’s talk about the democratization of alternatives and all the opportunities that this affords us, but first, let’s educate the advisors on what this actually means. And our biggest thing, and we’ve dealt with this in the ETF space for time, ETF at a moment was a very new product. And there are folks that knew it was a better product to the mutual fund, but didn’t know enough about it and therefore didn’t offer to their clients. And we’re seeing the same kind of evolution with alternatives now. So we want to first bring in the alternative experts. We want to allow and provide a platform for advisors to ask those questions, and we want to equip them with the knowledge they need to figure out how best to provide this into an asset allocation. The fourth one, very obvious in our space is practice management. For us, we think about it as how do we provide clear tactics for advisors to create competitive advantages. There’s a lot of opportunity out there, but there’s also a lot of operational restriction when it comes from, I used to be a financial planner at a BD shop, and now I’m a business owner and an operator. And now I have to manage people, and it’s a far different than being an entrepreneur and a business operator is being far different than just being a financial advisor. So we want to help folks think about how to best do that, whatever they see fit. And then the very last piece, the fifth one is just thinking about, you know, the ever-evolving market that is the financial advisor space and so organic and earn organic growth strategies. And so we’re bringing a lot of private equity and aggregator specialists there to not only talk to advisors that are maybe thinking about succession planning or younger advisors that are maybe thinking about acquiring books of businesses to grow their firm, right? We want to be the catalyst and platform for all of those conversations to come to light. So those are really the five key themes of 2023. Happy to kind of get into any more. If you have any questions

Craig: Anymore? How many more themes can you have? That’s a lot of themes, man that took you five minutes. Looking at the transcript here, that’s a lot going on. AI number one, two, uncertain macro environment. Number three, alternative investments. Number four, practice management. Number five, growth strategies in M&A. And the word of the day, the buzzword of the day is democratization. We’re democratization in everything, right? AI alternatives, everything. Make it a democracy, right? So last year you had 1700. What’s your guess for attendees this year?

Matt: Yeah, so we, and I’ve been on the record saying by 2025 we wanted to have a 10,000-person citywide experience and so our growth projection is to get 3,200 people in 2023. We’re on pace right now. We’re about 600 or so more than we were at this time last year. The both fun and thrilling excitement of these events is that you usually get about 50 to 60% of your attendee base registered within the last eight weeks leading into the conference. But yeah, we’re on pace for 3,200. Our bigger goal, and as you pointed out earlier, is to make sure that we have a good breakdown of the types of people there. So we really want to have around 1700 financial advisors present, and the rest being really the entire industry, which to us is broken into three categories. Asset managers, FinTech and wealth tech companies, as well as financial services, ecosystems. Those are your data providers, professional services companies, market makers, et cetera, that really look to work with the financial technology providers or the asset managers to serve advisors.

Craig: I’ve read the 10,000-person goal, that’s an interesting very high level goal, right? It’s a reach you know. At some point you’re going to go beyond the capacity of any normal venue. So where how are you going to support this?

Matt: Well, yeah, no, it’s a great point. So, the Future-Proof festival it’s funny, right? Because I think when we came out with the festival concept, we had a lot of naysayers and a lot of people almost scoff at the idea of, oh, you have a festival for wealth management. Like, what else is gonna happen? And it was fine for people to do that because I think it was so different. But our thesis has always been that by calling in a festival, by completely having it outdoors, by taking over four hotels, it affords us the ability to do things different from what we’re all used to in a traditional wealth management financial services conference. And that is that, by getting — to get to 10,000 people, we believe that we, you know, so again, our view here is that we don’t believe in zero sum as an ethos.

We believe in positive sum and so we’ll be partnering with other events that are maybe niche or maybe have cultivated an audience for a long standing time. But are suffering either from a business standpoint or a growth standpoint post pandemic to evolve. And so we’ll provide them a platform where they can host their own events as part of the Future-Proof festival. So think of the festival as the outdoor experiential opportunity, and then within the indoor premise of these four hotels, all walkable, right? You could have a session that’s focused on maybe for CEOs or you could have a marketing track that’s only focused for CMOs, or you could have an ALTs, right? So you could get really — you could build communities within the community. Very simply put. So that’s our goal is, 10,000 wasn’t just the fun magical number that we positioned. We looked at the fractured nature of our industry and the amount of conferences that are in this space. And we thought that we could create a unique experience being that we’re not selling anything else but an experience, right? Most of the largest events in our space are user conferences. They’re the big custodial conferences or the big advisor tech platform conferences. And so we feel that we have the unique position because we are truly the largest independent gathering for financial advisors. And most people they kind of take that for granted because you think of independent and they think independent financial advisors. It’s actually not, it’s the largest independent gathering, meaning that we are here to provide you an independent platform for you to get business done. We’re not on stage selling our research, selling our custodial services or what have you. We are putting the people that on stage that we feel are the best to help you grow your business.

Craig: That is a worthy goal. So indoor plus outdoor, kind of like carpeting, you’re indoor carpeting, outdoor carpeting gonna be doing both. And sounds like you’re building more of a conference platform for other sub-cons to run on your backend.

Matt: Absolutely. Yep. We welcome everyone. The one —

Craig: Talking about everyone I like to welcome everyone to the conference. I’ll be there. So you can add one more to your list, and it’s September 10th to the 13th this year in Huntington Beach, California. And we’re out of time, man. I mean, we’re overtime. Where can people find out more information about Future Proof and Advisor Circle?

Matt: Sure. Advisor circle.Com. To learn more about Advisor Circle and if you want to register, see all the exciting things we have for Future Proof, it’s futureproof.advisorcircle.com.

Craig: And before I go, one more thing I heard you had 350 applications for speakers. Give me a couple of speakers you’re going to have come on, share some, what do you got?

Matt: I knew you were going to do this. So the truth is, we’re creating — we are announcing a new website in the coming weeks. We’re getting ready to unveil the first 50 speakers. We’re getting ready to announce our musical acts for the festival all within the next three weeks. So go to futureproof.advisorcircle.com, put your email in, sign up for updates and we’ll be sure to get it to you. But sorry Craig, I’m not going to be dropping any excitement here.

Craig: Ouch. Ooh, rejected.

Matt: My marketing team would kill me.

Craig: I’m slammed. Cool. No worries man. Matt, thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Matt: Really appreciate the time Craig.



The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com