RIA Intel Turns One

A promising beginning.

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

(Illustration by RIA Intel)

Last June, after a whirlwind period of planning, writing, and editing, RIA Intel had launched. Would people read it?

At the beginning, I was nervous and silently (usually) rejoiced each time there was a bump in website traffic. Thankfully, the bumps became larger and more frequent.

We hit our traffic targets from the start. But doing so consistently would require hiring a savvy full-time reporter – ideally ASAP.

Over several weeks and interviews, pressure built as I struggled to find a reporter. I was admittedly extremely picky but, given that RIA Intel was a new publication (and small operation), this hire would play a critical role in determining the website’s success.

Then, as if beamed down by a “Star Trek” transporter, Michael Thrasher suddenly materialized. When we met in Midtown Manhattan, he was brimming with energy, great story ideas, and a winning attitude. By all appearances, he had done terrific work as a reporter at WealthManagement.com for two and a half years covering industry trends and the largest wealth managers.

Michael was soon on board and immediately demonstrated a knack for developing sophisticated story angles. His interpersonal skills, high journalistic standards, and tireless work ethic quickly became evident as did rising website traffic.

RIA Intel has tried to raise the caliber of journalism devoted to wealth management. We hope that is apparent in our daily coverage, which focuses on wealth management, practice management, investing, and interviews with leading industry figures.

Given this year’s pandemic and fastest bear market in history, wealth managers haven’t been spared from the upheaval and pain touching all parts of the world. We chronicled the impact of a recession on M&A activity, the importance of healthcare advisory services, and the cancellation of key industry conferences. We shared a playbook for winning new clients coming out of this crisis and even found good reasons to like much-hated annuities.

We also have dug into developments involving some of the top names in the business, including Shirl Penney of Dynasty Financial Partners, Peter Mallouk of Creative Planning, and Michael Kitces, now with Buckingham Strategic Wealth.

The death of George Floyd spurred advisors to ask industry organizations for a response. After initial silence, three leading organizations weighed in. RIA Intel, which had previously examined why an “unconscionably low” number of minorities work in wealth management, looked recently at how advisors can meaningfully cater to minority investors.

In April, Michael broke the news that Motif had suddenly closed and that accounts from the portfolio management software company would transfer to Folio Financial, a self-clearing broker-dealer and technology company. A follow-up story provided more details of the deal. In May, Schwab acquired parts of Motif; Goldman Sachs then said it had agreed to acquire Folio.

In terms of ethics, we looked at where crooked advisors thrive, how firms can avoid hiring rogue advisors, and how some justify unethical behavior. We also looked at the transparency of a large RIA’s market calls.

Among our more ambitious stories, Michael wrote about how an RIA, a professor, and the University of Texas are working to bring younger people into a rapidly aging industry. And I warned that the pandemic could unearth more Ponzi schemes.

Some of our best stories last year included coverage of how Schwab played TD Ameritrade, the importance of RIAs not waiting too long to sell, and how a giant Ponzi scheme fleeced RIAs, religious groups, and retirees (an Azbee Awards of Excellence regional bronze award winner for best online feature article).

And who can forget Ken Fisher? RIA Intel was among the first to report on his startling and crude comments at an industry conference.

We’re immensely grateful to Institutional Investor Chairman & CEO, Diane Alfano, and Chief Content Officer & Editor-in-Chief, Kip McDaniel, for their ongoing support and help in making RIA Intel’s launch party an unqualified success. We also greatly appreciate the bold and innovative illustrations created day in, day out by Creative Director, Ed Johnson, and Assistant Art Director, Jeremy Leung.

We also want to thank David Sterman, Michelle Celarier, Kristen Oliveri, Hazel Sheffield, Gary Stern, John Kimelman, Grace Williams, Jerilyn Klein Bier, Alli Romano, and Nancy Mann Jackson, among others, for their valuable articles.

And we’d especially like to thank you for your ongoing support of RIA Intel. We’re always interested in hearing what you think about our coverage. What do you like? Dislike? Is there anything you’d like to see more of or less of?

Please sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter and don’t be shy about contacting me or Michael.Thrasher@institutionalinvestor.com.

Onwards to year two!

Greg Bartalos
RIA Intel

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