This content is from: Practice Management

Do-Good Advisors – or Something Else? Two RIAs Explain Their New, $999, Advisors-Only Club

Justin Castelli and Taylor Schulte say a shared passion for helping colleagues led them to create the Advisor Growth Community. Here’s their defense of the concept and cost.

A new club accepting only financial advisors and keeping out the “riffraff” to the tune of $999 per year hardly sounds inclusive. But Justin Castelli and Taylor Schulte are inviting all financial advisors to consider joining their private group intended to help like-minded wealth managers grow professionally and personally.

After connecting through Twitter two years ago, the RIAs have since regularly spoken on the phone and even met in person. Castelli is the founder of RLS Wealth Management outside Indianapolis; Schulte is the founder of Define Financial in San Diego.

Last spring, they hatched the idea to form the Advisor Growth Community, a private online group that will offer weekly webinars and workshops, exclusive resources, an annual in-person-gathering, and a digital space for advisors to share ideas. The group will also organize guest speakers, including some from outside the industry.

Much of the programming this fall is already lined up, including a presentation from a member who Schulte dubbed a “CRM nerd” but declined to name. The “nerd’s” independent research and knowledge of different software goes well beyond the average advisor’s and he’s not product-pedaling, Schulte said.

Castelli and Schulte hope the club will deliver collaboration and ideas that social media, custodian-organized conferences, webcasts sponsored by asset managers, and other networking forums have failed to, for various reasons.

A lot of communities are solely focused on helping an advisor grow the number of clients they work with or the assets they manage – and in some cases, it’s hard to discern any real value, Castelli said. “This is not just going to be a community for socializing and killing time. That’s what Twitter is for.”

Castelli knows he probably would not have met Schulte or other advisors without social media. But he often finds public Twitter conversations to be surface-level. The most meaningful ones occur via direct messages or offline entirely, he says.

“I want this community for other people because I know how much it would have helped me throughout my career. That is the ‘why’ behind it. It initially is selfish, it’s something I want, but I also want to share this with others,” Castelli said about the Advisor Growth Community during a YouTube video he published Thursday.

In addition to running their RIAs, Castelli and Schulte are both consultants to other advisors, frequently helping them define their own brands and establish new ways to market and communicate using social media, writing, podcasts, and videos. 

A side hustle coaching other advisors can be lucrative. Schulte said he knows a successful advisor who runs a 10-person focus group and changes each member $10,000 per year. 

Beta members can join the Advisor Growth Community in October for $999 per year. The founders toyed with the idea of making the group free to join but say there were clear benefits to charging participants. 

Charging a smidgen under $1,000 should act as a filter and encourage only advisors who are serious about the group’s mission to join. The RIAs wanted it to be affordable for others and put pressure on themselves to make it worthwhile. 

“It also gives us some capital to invest back into the community. It’s not like Justin and I are putting a bunch of money in our pockets here,” Schulte said. “There’s only so much time in the day. I've had to put [growing] my wealth management business on pause. I view this as a source of income. It has to be.”

The RIAs both said they haven’t sacrificed attention paid to their clients, but that their effort to create the group has taken away from going out and getting more. Neither have plans to close their RIA or make any material changes regarding their wealth management businesses in favor of the pursuit.

“I’m not going to shut down my RIAs to do this effort. I’ve worked with some [clients] forever. They’re like my family,” Castelli said.

In less than one week, more than 500 advisors signed up to receive emails with more details about the group. Enrollment will begin September 1, and the official launch with 50 beta members will be October 1. Enrollment will reopen for all advisors in January of 2020.

There are no requirements to join beyond being a registered advisor. Advisors of all types, with various certifications, business models, and assets have already expressed interest, including brokers from the so-called wirehouses, Castelli said.

“I think you’d be surprised by how many advisors feel alone, even if they are in a big organization,” he said.

Schulte is not afraid of marketing experiments. He has his own “Experiments in Advisor Marketing” podcast and is currently sending mailers to homes down the road from the Torrey Pines Golf Course. 

At the onset, he said, he had no idea if any advisor would take an interest in the group – but his confidence is growing. He said there’s a chance the Advisor Growth Community will get the 50 beta members right out of the gate, based on his analysis of the email campaign. About 70% of recipients opened a recent email (which unveiled the price for the first time), 16% clicked through and engaged with it, and only seven people unsubscribed. 

“I would be completely lying if I didn’t say imposter syndrome kicks in. This is not just me pretending to be the expert here,” said Schulte, who describes himself as an introvert that “hates” public speaking.

“I think I've learned in reality that putting yourself out there, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, is really rewarding in a number of different ways.”

“As we have new needs, new things come out of the profession, new ideas of growing, new ideas of marketing, we're going to be evolving the group and try to stay ahead of the curve,” Castelli said. “I don’t want to be doing the things that everybody has been doing. I want to do things that everyone's going to be doing. And I want to do it first and I want us to be leading that charge as a group.”