The Future is About Experiences: An Interview with Josh Brown
With more than 1,000 attendees already signed up to attend, the Future Proof Festival is easily the most anticipated event on this year’s wealth management calendar. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing a preview of what’s to come, featuring interviews with entertainers, advisors and executives who will be in Huntington Beach, California, from September 11-14, 2022.
Our first interview is with “Downtown” Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and author of The Reformed Broker blog. He is an on-air contributor at CNBC and has more than 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, The Compound.
Here’s what he had to say about the four-day Future Proof Festival, his deep hatred of branded thumb drives and why this is the wealth management event the industry needs.
Future Proof: What is the Future Proof Festival?
Downtown Josh Brown: The Future Proof Festival is a wealth management festival that feels like your favorite live event.
We asked ourselves, “What are the things that can’t be replicated online? What are the things that people actually really care about and look forward to—and look back and remember?”
“Where is the real impact?”
It’s almost entirely about the personal connections people make. Networking is the number one reason you should go to an event. The connections formed at a great event are the number one thing you take with you.
We want to put great people on stage and we want to have an atmosphere that’s fun and engaging. Most importantly, we want to facilitate people meeting with each other and exchanging ideas with a drop dead gorgeous backdrop and experiences that will be like nothing that they’ve ever had at any other wealth management event.
You can’t do this on LinkedIn. You can’t do this on Twitter. The relationships you create online will never be as meaningful as those formed in-person.
FP: I’ve heard you draw comparisons between SXSW and Future Proof. What’s going to surprise attendees at this conference?
Downtown: The boardwalk’s not going to look like your typical exhibitor hall, for starters. The whole thing will be outdoors. The booths are going to be more like brand activations—something you would see at a concert.
The types of companies that are going to be exhibiting and sending people are going to be a little bit livelier. The types of companies that have agreed to sign on to something like this, in its first year, are going to be a little bit more on the adventurous side. And quite frankly, the brands that want to make an impact at Future Proof are going to have to adapt to us.
FP: What do you mean by that?
Downtown: We’re going to have the younger end of the spectrum of advisors at this event. The young advisors who are coming probably are not interested in collecting pens and stress balls.
This is the new live event environment that financial services companies and software companies that cater to our space are going to have to get accustomed to. They’re going to have to do things that are high impact, memorable and visually appealing.
It’s a new era. We’re past the pandemic. We’re past the exhibit halls and the dreary hotel ballrooms. All of that is over. The future is about experiences.
FP: Okay. But there’s still going to be swag?
Downtown: I hope so, but by God, it better not be branded thumb drives. I will take a table full of branded thumb drives and dump them into the ocean.
I’m just kidding. I will not pollute the ocean.
FP: A lot of advisors enjoy going to conferences in their niche, some even more than attending actual advisor conferences. How is Future Proof addressing all the niches of finance?
Downtown: It’ll be a mass-attended event, but with a lot of niche events happening within it.
This was Advisor Circle CEO Matt Middleton’s vision from the beginning: There are all these groups that cater to advisors, like trade organizations, custodians and tech firms. Why not just carve out a space for all of these groups at our own event? That way they can have their own onsite mini events.
It’s also not strictly advisors in attendance.
High net worth investors will be there, plus a lot of people from asset management and fintech. Some people attending just want to be on the cutting edge of what to do with their wealth.
FP: What’s got you most excited about Future Proof?
Downtown: It’s got a crossover feel to it. When you get a group of advisors in a room, there’s a lot of groupthink that goes on. We want to shatter that.
It’s high time advisors went out and actually met with their public.
Future Proof is not just a room with 500 financial advisors in it. We’re encouraging advisors to walk out—literally into the sunshine—and interact with people from technology, people from art and culture and fashion, music and software.
FP: What types of communities will be created at Future Proof?
Downtown: Let’s say you’re a younger advisor, or a newer advisor. Let’s say you work for a team or you started your own thing or you recently went out on your own. Whatever stage you’re at, you’re going to interact with 10 or 20 people just like you. They’ll be from different parts of the country and different walks of life. They will have been trained at maybe a different type of firm. But you are going to meet people who are in the same situation, facing the same decisions about software and compliance and custodians.
You’re going to have substantive one-on-one, two-on-one, five-on-one conversations with your peers. They’re all going to be there. They’ll be from all over the country. That’s game changing for a lot of young advisors, especially.
Then the layer above that is a whole group of very experienced, very talented RIA executives, brokerage firm teams and wirehouse teams. They are people that have done this already, successfully, and have a lot of knowledge to impart.
The layer above that is this opportunity to see what the cutting edge looks like. All of the exhibitors are leaning into the Future Proof theme. Whatever they’re bringing out to show the crowd is whatever their newest stuff is.
I really want people to go home feeling like they’re going to be a part of the future and they’ve gotten a sneak preview of it.
FP: It’s hard to imagine, but for advisors who are asking themselves, “Is this conference for me?” How would you answer that question? Why is attending Future Proof going to be worthwhile?
Downtown: If you see what we’re saying about this event and you’re on the fence, it’s probably not for you. If you want to drink lukewarm stale coffee and sit through another ESG panel sponsored by an ESG mutual fund, you could do that.
But what we’re going to do is going to change people’s lives. I don’t say that flippantly. Literally my life has been changed by the events I attended.
I was a failed stock broker trying to become a financial advisor. I went to a series of events that were life changing. They changed my life because of the people I met and the inspiration I got from listening to what those people had to say.
That’s what we’re doing. We’re giving the next generation an opportunity to have their lives changed by in-person experiences and networking.
So if you’re on the fence, maybe we’ll see you next year. This isn’t for you. But if you see what we’re doing and what we’re talking about and you are immediately excited, then you’re coming. I think that the people who belong there will be there.
John Swolfs is the Chief Content Officer at Advisor Circle, a product studio for growth-oriented financial professionals. John is responsible for creating dynamic programs for Advisor Circle’s world-class events which include Future Proof festival and Exchange, the world’s leading ETF event.
Future Proof is set to bring together the world’s most prominent figures and emerging minds to explore the intersection of money, tech, culture and impact.
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