Advisor Circle, Ritholtz Wealth Management Announce SXSW-like Festival Called Future Proof

“The trade show is dead. Covid killed it. It’s not coming back. Why would it come back, nobody liked it to begin with?” Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and co-founder of Future Proof, told RIA Intel.

The Future Proof conference will take place in Huntington Beach, Ca. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

The Future Proof conference will take place in Huntington Beach, Ca.

(Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

Advisor Circle, an events business and content studio, has partnered with high-profile RIA Ritholtz Wealth Management to put on Future Proof, a new four-day festival focused on the intersection of wealth, technology and culture.

The organizers say financial advisors have begrudgingly attended longstanding trade shows and conferences and the new festival represents the future of in-person events.

“From an experience standpoint, it is completely different from anything you have ever imagined in an event,” Matt Middleton, co-founder of event studio Advisor Circle, said. “Let’s go from rubber-chicken food to food trucks outside, right? Let’s go from stale auditoriums to a beachside, you know, outdoor space, right? Let’s go from burnt coffee to getting the best local coffee.”

Josh Brown, the CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management who makes frequent appearances on CNBC and is one the industry’s most high-profile advisors, is also a co-founder of Future Proof. He also believes events going forward need to be different.

“The trade show is dead. Covid killed it. It’s not coming back. Why would it come back, nobody liked it to begin with?” Brown told RIA Intel.

Before starting Advisor Circle earlier this year, Middleton and two other co-founders had experience producing popular conferences for wealth managers. Middleton was the growth strategy director at Informa, the company behind Inside ETFs and Inside WealthStack (formerly Wealth/Stack). Co-founder John Swolfs was previously the chief executive of Inside ETFs and co-founder Matt Hougan was previously the chief executive of and chairman of Inside ETFs. Hougan is now the chief investment officer at Bitwise Asset Management, a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency index and beta funds company.

Future Proof is the second conference Advisor Circle has produced. In February, it’s helping put on Exchange, a 2,000-person ETF conference in Miami.

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The inaugural Future Proof festival will take place September 11-14 next year in Huntington Beach, California. The festival will be city-wide and bring together financial advisors, asset managers, fintech startups, creators, artists and others.

Tickets to the festival will range from $150 to $300 for a four-day, all-access passes, Middleton said.

Middleton said organizers hope to create an experience like the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The organizers have reserved a half-mile-long section of beach in the city where most of the events will take place across all four days. There will be dueling content stages for speakers and musical performances, lounges for networking, and brand activations (campaigns, events, or interactions to promote new products and services).

Future Proof has already booked event spaces at four hotels: the Hyatt, the Hilton, the Paséa Hotel, and the Kimpton. The Hyatt and Hilton will be used for some daily events with cabanas, meeting spaces, and private events. The other two hotels will be reserved for private events, Middleton said.

“When you leave an event, the only thing you really take away with you is the experience and the networking, and the connections that you made with your peers, with vendors, with people you might possibly do business with, with people who inspire you. So, what we basically said was ‘let’s take the best part of a traditional wealth conference and wrap it up,’” Brown said.

Middleton hopes this model will widen the wealth management industry bubble by expanding the audience, community and discussions around the future of wealth. Unlike traditional conferences, which often feature paid speakers from sponsors, anyone wanting to speak at Future Proof will need to apply or be invited.

“Every single event model is built around sponsors paying for speaking roles and what tends to happen is these speakers that have been on the circuit for the past for all of the industry, tend to be middle-aged white men,” Middleton said.

Refusing to use that pay-to-play strategy will make Future Proof a more inclusive business, Middleton said.

“We continue to talk about the change we want to see, the new face of wealth. We want to serve as a catalyst driving that home, and many people talk about it but no one actually makes the, has an intention to do it,” Middleton said.

Organizers expect 3,000 people to show up, however, they are planning to expand accommodations to hotels in Newport Beach with shuttles running on an hourly basis if there is more demand than expected, said Middleton. The festival is partnering with more than twenty fintech, asset management, and wealth management companies.

“Our vision for this is that this becomes a 10,000-person movement,” Middleton said.

“If you walk out of this festival, and you say to yourself, ‘everyone I saw on stage were people that I saw at a financial planning conference last year’ then we dropped the ball,” Brown said. “We want this to be something where it’s memorable and people say, ‘that really changed the course of my career,’ meeting this person, meeting that person, learning about that [or] this technology.”

Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.

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