Wealth Managers Found Onyx Advisor Network to Help Others Like Them Start RIAs

Emlen Miles-Mattingly and Dasarte Yarnway, two Black advisors and RIA founders, want to “change the complexion” of wealth management by helping underrepresented groups jump-start new advisory firms.

(Emlen-Miles Mattingly and Dasarte Yarnway/Courtesy photos)

(Emlen-Miles Mattingly and Dasarte Yarnway/Courtesy photos)

When Emlen Miles-Mattingly left Principal Financial Group in 2017 to start his own RIA, Gen Next Wealth, he struggled to find a safe place for his client’s assets. Some custodians require new RIAs to have $10 million in assets under management or more to join their platform and he didn’t have that.

For advisors from underrepresented communities, that minimum feels even higher, said Miles-Mattingly, who is Black.

“Historically, underrepresented communities do not have the type of wealth that you might find in other communities. So, obviously that trickles down to the advisor and makes it hard for them to gather $10 to $25 million before they even get onto the platform,” he told RIA Intel. Miles-Mattingly ultimately chose to use a turnkey asset management platform, which included a relationship with a custodian.

But that was just one barrier the advisor faced while trying to start his own wealth management business. New RIAs also have to register with state securities regulators, navigate compliance, and figure out how to grow and sustain a new advisory business.

To help others facing the same issues, Miles-Mattingly, whose RIA manages $15 million in assets for 76 households, and Dasarte Yarnway, founder of Berknell Financial Group, an RIA managing $10 million in assets for 79 households, have created a service platform for advisors.

In January, the two are launching the Onyx Advisor Network, which will give new RIAs everything they need to start, scale and sustain their business, they told RIA Intel.

The platform is powered by some of the most recognizable companies in wealth management. Advisors can manage assets using Altruist, a wealth management technology company supported by the custodian Apex Clearing. Synergy RIA Compliance Solutions provides compliance support. Wealthbox is the client relationship management software available to Onyx users and MessageWatcher will archive their data. RIAs who join the network can also choose between financial planning software RightCapital or Envestnet’s MoneyGuide Pro.

Altruist typically does not charge RIAs for the first 100 accounts on its platform, then RIAs pay Altruist a fee for each additional account they open. Onyx users won’t pay Altruist account fees no matter how many they open. Advisors will also have access to all of Altruist’s other services it provides.

Onyx plans to charge RIAs a flat monthly fee that has not been determined. The founders said it will be “affordable” with partner companies offering Onyx members discounts between 10 percent and 35 percent for their services.

“We’re in a space where advisory technology can easily cost $400 per month, which is 4,800 bucks per year. So, for almost the same price, let’s say, you can have multiple pieces of technology by joining the Onyx Advisor Network plus Onyx portfolios and custodial access,” Yarnway said. The network has partnered with Vanguard to create pre-made model portfolios available to any RIA who joins the network.

In addition to the necessary software and tools to start and run an RIA, Miles-Mattingly and Yarnway want to support a community of like-minded advisors the way they have supported each other. After meeting through social media, the founders helped each other grow their separate RIA businesses. To foster something similar, Onyx coaches will help RIAs better their practices and do things like grow their business through social media marketing or starting a podcast.

“This really, honestly, started from this: Dasarte’s and I’s accountability that we got from each other when we started working together,” Miles-Mattingly said. “When we were able to talk and combine what we were doing, it actually helped both of our practices grow and this is why we say the community is so important.”

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Onyx is in talks with companies to add tax planning, estate planning and equity compensation planning at discounted rates, Yarnway said. The company hopes to finalize and announce those new partnerships in January or February.

The wealth management industry is making a better effort to be more inclusive to both financial advisors and clients. But it’s still failing on many fronts. More than half the U.S. population is women but just 23.4 percent of 90,000 advisors who hold the CFP designation are women, according to the Certified Financial Planners Board. Only 3.8 percent of all certified financial planners are Black or Latino.

Yarnway and Miles-Mattingly were reminded of the disparity this fall when they went to a popular conference attended by more than 1,000 advisors. The advisors said they counted only five Black financial advisors in attendance, including themselves. “That’s like under 1 percent of the people in attendance at the conference,” Yarnway said.

He and Miles-Mattingly say Onyx will give advisors like them the opportunity to catch up to and progress alongside their professional peers, and ultimately “change the complexion” of the wealth management industry. “I think that’s something that we are really, really motivated and inspired to get done,” Yarnway said.

In January, the Onyx Advisor Network will launch with a beta test group of 10 to 25 advisors. The founders said they hope the network will have 100 advisors before 2023 and 500 advisors within three years. The founders are also planning to host a multi-day Onyx Advisor Conference late next year.

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

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