Onyx Advisor Network Breaks Down Historic Barriers to Entry in Wealth Management
Emlen Miles-Mattingly and Dasarte Yarnway — RIA Intel Award nominees for Industry Advocate of the Year — have built an advisory network for unrepresented advisors, who often struggle to start and grow their own businesses due to racial barriers in wealth management.
In the run-up to naming the winners of the inaugural RIA Intel Awards on September 14, 2022, RIA Intel will publish short features highlighting the accomplishments of this year’s nominees and Rising Stars.
Emlen Miles-Mattingly and Dasarte Yarnway, owners of two RIAs — Gen Next Wealth and Berknell Financial Group — spent the past year building the Onyx Advisor Network, a platform that helps advisors from underrepresented communities start, scale, and sustain their businesses. The network provides advisors with access to portfolio management services, as well as billing, custody, compliance help, financial planning software, and a CRM. Launched in May, the platform currently serves about 25 advisors, and the founders have a goal of 100 clients by the end of this year.
Miles-Mattingly and Yarnway spoke with RIA Intel about getting their advisory network up and running and the lessons they’ve learned in the process. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What has been your greatest success?
Miles-Mattingly: One of the biggest successes is the support that we’ve received from underrepresented advisors and other people across the industry. It’s been overwhelming, but in a good way.
Yarnway: Another great success for us is just being able to give advisors the opportunity to create their own firms. This industry has always had a firm gatekeeper, with price being the main barrier against underrepresented advisors going independent. On the other hand, one challenge for us has been getting our message to resonate with the underrepresented advisor. For so long, starting their own firm has just not been a possibility, so a lot of education has to take place.
What important lessons have you learned in the process?
Yarnway: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that people don’t know what they don’t know, and it’s our job to lay out the options for them. I didn’t know that there was an opportunity for me to go independent and start my own business until I saw somebody else do it, and there’s a huge demographic of minority advisors in the same position.
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Miles-Mattingly: What we’re finding out is that there are a lot of advisors stuck in some peculiar situations. So what we’ve been able to do is hear from them directly about what they need to build their businesses and go independent.
Have you guys come across any unexpected opportunities in the past year?
Yarnway: The support from our technology partners has been overwhelming—every day someone new wants to partner with Onyx, and that requires a decision each time about what we want to offer to our network. Our technology partners see it first as a business opportunity, but I also think they want to help underrepresented advisors impact the communities that they serve. That was extremely unexpected — we thought we’d have to create proprietary pieces of technology for our members, but we’ve gotten great support from some of the larger tech institutions.
Miles-Mattingly: Yeah, it’s been unexpected because we really don’t know what the public perception is, you know? We know the industry wants to see change, but when leading companies are telling you that not only are they going to do it, but that they’re also going to partner with you, and that was a surprise.
The inaugural RIA Intel Awards is a celebration of financial advisors, wealth management firms, and industry leaders. Winners will be on announced on RIAIntel.com September 14, 2022 and will be honored in-person at upcoming RIA Institute Forums.
If you have any questions, please contact your relationship manager at II or RIA Intel.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the winners would be announced at a dinner and ceremony at the Metropolitan Club of New York on September 14, 2022.
However, due to an unanticipated scheduling conflict with the venue, we regret that Institutional Investor’s inaugural RIA Intel Awards Dinner & Gala on September 14 in New York will not take place. We apologize for the inconvenience.
The Awards themselves remain unchanged. Winners will still be on announced on RIAIntel.com on September 14, and will be honored in-person at upcoming RIA Institute Forums.
Each winner will also be the subject of a feature story on RIAIntel.com.
If you have questions about the awards, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City