The inaugural Future Proof Festival is just weeks away and Brian Hamburger, chief counsel at Hamburger Law Firm and president and CEO of the law firm’s affiliated consultancy business, called MarketCounsel Consulting, is eager to join attendees on the boardwalk at Huntington Beach, California. He’s been checking the latest additions to the agenda, not just out of curiosity, but to see which of his favorite debate counterparts will also be in attendance.
Even a brief conversation with Brian yields stories and insights. His years of experience guiding breakaway financial advisors, merging businesses and assisting in high-stakes acquisitions give him an enviable perspective within the wealth management industry. Yet for all his knowledge, Brian’s welcoming demeanor has a gravity all its own.
Here’s what Brian had to say about the upcoming Future Proof Festival, why “virtual” is a word he’s banishing from his vocabulary (even as he transitioned his firm to being 100% remote) and how the purchase of a boat led to weekends cooking for hungry U.S. Coast Guard crews.
Future Proof: What should we expect to see and hear from you at the inaugural Future Proof Festival?
Brian Hamburger: Is there a karaoke machine?
FP: If that’s what you need, I’m sure we can arrange something for you.
Brian: [laughs] Fair enough. If not, expect me to debate David DeVoe on the topic of mergers and acquisitions—but more pertinent than that will be what happens off the stage.
The stage is the sideshow at a conference like this. You can expect to see me attending sessions and learning from what’s said onstage. But I’m really looking forward to interacting with attendees at the breaks and spending time with friends in the evening.
With the pandemic and the disruptions that we’ve all had to our normal lives, this is the best opportunity to spend meaningful time with people we care about.
I love nothing more than going to a conference where I can be present. It may not be as exciting as David Canter’s guitar or Doug Fritz on his surfboard, but it’s exciting for me.
FP: Let’s talk about connecting with friends. You’ve worked in this industry for a long time and have made a lot of friendships. What is it about a live, in-person event like Future Proof that allows you to connect with others, in a way that doesn’t exist in the virtual world?
Brian: I’ve made a point of getting away from the term “virtual,” because “virtual” sounds fake. Virtual interactions are not fake at all. They can be extraordinarily genuine.
But to me, a well-run, in-person conference is a sacred place. You’ve got this physical forum that provides a place for meaningful interaction—and dare I say—debate and dialogue.
When you’re in a physical forum, it’s so much more comfortable to disagree with another person because you can read body language. Debate comes from a place of respect. People you’re debating can see that you’re not being threatening or trying to insult someone.
Plus, an in-person conference is still the best way for advisors to test their theories. They can float their trial balloons and see if people think they have crazy ideas or interesting ones. That’s a dynamic that only thrives when we’re physically proximate to one another.
FP: On the topic of new ideas, you’ve actually closed your physical office and reallocated those funds to technology and more regular meetings. What calculations went into that decision?
Brian: My initial reaction to the success we had with remote working was just to downsize our physical office space. I thought we would create this small workspace, of sorts, where our operations team could work full-time and other employees could just rotate in and out.
The media was talking about how commercial real estate continued to be viable and that people couldn’t wait to get back to the office.
Then I started listening to my team.
This whole metamorphosis caused by the pandemic not only changed our physical space, but who I am as a business leader. When I talked with actual employees, instead of reading the newspaper, I started really harnessing the learnings of my team.
My role is to determine our destination and the standards we keep in order to get there. But I need to recognize that others may have a better sense of which road is best to take. I need to relinquish some control in order to achieve the best result.
We had better organizational rhythm when employees were working remotely and distributed. Our absenteeism at meetings actually dropped when we were working remotely.
I have the data to prove it. I can see minutes in meetings and on phones. I can see response times for tickets. The data is there. It tells a story about how productive someone is.
FP: You and your team have been to a lot of conferences. Back when you had an office, you started hanging name badges from conference attendees in your cafe. What was that all about?
Brian: Oh man, I loved that tradition. It started by happenstance: we would have people come back from the road and just hang up their name badge in the cafe. We started to display them on wires hanging across the ceiling. There were just hundreds and hundreds of them.
One day I was walking around the cafe with one of our industry partners who was visiting. They looked at the badges and said, “Wow, this looks a little like a college frat house kind of thing.” I responded that we try to keep it casual.
But each of those name badges represents something. Each badge represents one or more nights that people have been away from their family, in the name of representing our brand, growing our firm and contributing to its success. Some of these names aren’t here anymore, but they were still meaningful contributors.
It’s a great reminder. Whenever we go to a meeting or are asked to participate in an event, we’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.
FP: Now that you’ve moved to being 100% remote, are you recreating that tradition?
Brian: On our firm’s intranet we have the equivalent of a trophy case. It includes the awards and recognition that we’ve received. It also includes all of the conferences that we’ve presented at. Not as cool as the badges in the cafe, but it’s still a way to recognize the contributions made by our employees.
FP: I understand you make your own contributions as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. What is that organization and what’s your role there?
Brian: The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is a uniformed, civilian arm of the U.S. Coast Guard and we help augment its capabilities. We also promote things like boating safety.
My involvement came from a simple place. I bought a boat and put it in a marina in Jersey City, New Jersey, right across from lower Manhattan. It’s a very busy area, with vessels crossing the river nonstop.
I went out in my boat for the first time and I said, “Holy shit, I don’t know the first thing that I need to know.”
You need to know navigation and protocols. I had young kids at the time and I knew I would be doing us all a disservice by being on the water without knowing more.
With the Auxiliary you get ongoing boating classes and education from veterans. I learned quite a bit.
Over time, I also found a real collegial group of people and a path to happiness and giving back.
One of my specialties is that I’m an Auxiliary chef. It taught me how to cook for crowds. I love it.
Let’s say a station chef wants to take the weekend off. The crew’s still got to eat. So my colleagues and I go over there and cook for the weekend. Or we’ll head out on a ship and help augment the crew if there’s any kind of illness or if they’re short-staffed.
FP: Do you get to make any of your own recipes?
Brian: They have their recipes, but the crew likes it a whole lot more when I come up with my own.
I like to be the one who comes in and spoils them a bit. These guys are out on the water working hard. They’re literally saving lives.
If they get to duck in for a half hour and grab a bite to eat, and I can make it a really enjoyable experience for them, that’s time well spent.
FP: The Future Proof Festival is all about celebrating differences, a cause you’ve also championed. What problems could be solved by the financial services industry, if it did a better job of embracing people’s differences?
Brian: I wish I could give you a quick answer. We’ve been seeking a solution for decades and you can see it everywhere: we’ve got a way of seeing things within the industry that’s way too similar—and not very healthy.
If we could infuse this space with a diversity of backgrounds, of different races, religions, gender. I mean, gender may actually be the easiest one to tackle. I know the statistics on that.
I want to see a real diversity of backgrounds, not just someone being a little bit different.
It’s like boating around New York City. What makes boating so crazy around lower Manhattan is that you’ve got everyone going every which way. It’s not a two lane highway. It makes it interesting. It keeps you on your toes. It’s what allows your mind to get away from static ways of thinking.
We need greater diversity in all respects so that the fabric of what we’re building within this profession is more eclectic and much more interesting. We’ve made some progress. But, man, we have a long way to go.
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.
Future Proof brings together an entirely new community of financial advisors, institutional investors, asset managers, fintech startups, investors, financial creators, activists, artists, musicians and other key stakeholders around an unprecedented experience and agenda.
Future Proof’s Wheel of Impact promotes the power of giving in a fun, dynamic and social way. With a donation of any size, attendees can have the ability to spin the wheel, determining where the donation will go and how it will be used. Land on the “mystery” selection and have a chance to win items, trips and other experiences.
We love some fun at Future Proof, but we know not everything can be fun and games. Stop by booth 405 for a one-on-one consultation with the FP transitions team on all things advisor related. Don’t be shy if you have questions or want to know more about any aspect of running your practice; the Advisor Accelerator has you covered.
Join your fellow peers for an all access experience with indie pop sentation Fitz and the Tantrums. This excluisve event is a can’t miss experience for any music fan.
Future Proof does nothing small. Join us on Monday morning for the grand unveiling of our half-mile beachfront boardwalk complete with activations, meeting areas, multiple stages, and everything else you need to make your Future Proof experience truly one of a kind.
The popularity of fine dining has exploded with the rise of celebrity chefs, Instagram, and popular TV shows. But there is more to food than pretty Instagram posts and fancy brunches. Join Morningstar and celebrity chef Charlotte Langley as she explores and educates us on the value of sustainable food. Located on the Surf City Stage, pre-registration is required.
Climb up to the top of Vanguard’s observation deck and take in the aerial view of the Future Proof Boardwalk. The observation deck is not the only thing you will find at booth 1108, stop by the lounge to take a meeting or spend some time with Vanguard’s team and learn more about the value of ownership.
We have all been to countless industry events and seen hundreds of half-drank water bottles left just about everywhere people sit down to connect. Future Proof is doing away with the plastic bottle altogether. In partnership with SSGA, we are giving every attendee an insulated reusable water bottle that can be refilled at our hydration station. Visit the Hydration Station next to the Hyatt footbridge to refill and reuse.
Are you like the rest of us and cringe at your headshot? Cringe no more. We have partnered with LinkedIn to create a professional headshot studio. Stop by booth 302 to get your next favorite profile photo and don’t forget to enter into the free premium membership draw.
One of the best things about attending the Future Proof festival is all the different settings and venues to connect and network with peers and colleagues. Logicly’s Tiki Hut is a must-see, serving up vacation vibes and craft cocktails for you to sit back, soak up the scene as you relax, and take a moment to chat with your friends at booth 307
If you don’t post to social media, did you really attend Future Proof? Bust out your phone and snap a selfie or group shot in front of the Motley Fool ETFs Wall of Influence and let the community know you the world’s first wealth festival #FutureProofAC
We could all use a little peace and quiet in our lives. Join renowned mediation expert Mona Sharma for a guided meditation and breathwork session to train the mind and body to optimize health and happiness. Join us on Tuesday morning at the Surf City Stage to start your day peacefully. *RSVP is not required; however, those that RSVP will be entered to win a giveaway.
Link to RSVP: www.vrglwealth.com/futureproof-2022
The world of sports is more than just the games. In this unique session, Bloomberg Chief Corresponded Jason Kelly hosts financial advisorJoe Mclean and his superstar sports clients for an in-depth look at the changing world of sports and why more athletes are embracing investing and building wealth beyond the court.
What is the old saying, dance as if no one is watching? That could not be more true at Future Proof. Relax and lose yourself as you vibe out at the silent disco. Located at booth 402, USCF provides the tunes, and you provide the grooves.
No festival is complete without an art exhibit. Future Proof is no different. Watch as Future Proof artist Tony Concep’ genius brings the living mural to life over the 3-day festival. Be sure to stop by booth 400 and tell Tony and Reggie how much you appreciate the art.
Join 30+ executives from the country’s top-ranked RIA firms for a VIP evening reception.
If you are an executive leader (or owner) of a fast-growing RIA firm and are interested in participating get in touch with us today. Space is extremely limited.
The Future Proof Festival experience roles on as we host our annual music festival. This year’s lineup features an array of artists and musicians covering everything from rock classics to hip hop. Come early and stay late sampling the numerous food trucks and bars. Don’t miss headliners rap legend Big Boi and indie pop sensation Fitz and the Tantrums showcase their talents.* * admission is included with your Future Proof Pass.
Relax and unwind as you connect with the Future Proof community, as you enjoy and evening of tasty bites, and delicious cocktails as celebrity DJ, DJ Mick sets the vibe as the sunsets on the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Future Proof is all about experiences. Rub shoulders with Big Boi in this invite-only meet & greet in the Future Proof green room.
Recgonized as one of if not the most influential podcasts Invest Like the Best records live from Future Proof. Join host Patrick O’Shanunessy and his guest for indepth look at the markets, investing and the world of business.
The Pacific Highway stage is the most versatile stage at Future Proof. With countless setup options, the PCH Stage is your go-to spot for industry insight and innovation, all while staying current with the latest trends in money, culture, tech and impact.
As the beating heart of the boardwalk, the Ocean stage will feature seating for over 500 and have the look and feel of a concert venue on the beach. The ocean stage will host a range of exciting content from industry-changing keynotes to the closing concert featuring today’s biggest musical acts.
Podcasts are all the rage, as they excite and entertain audiences from afar. Future Proof changes the game, as we invite your favorite podcasters to host their shows live from the festival. Forget passive listening. Future Proof’s Live Podcast sessions allow you to interact directly with your favorite podcast creators as they record live episodes just feet from the Pacific Ocean.
You’ve got questions and e we have a dedicated team of helpful staff walking the grounds, and an attendee concierge desk stationed on the boardwalk to help get you answers. Don’t be shy. We are happy to help.
Perhaps no sport combines art, culture, and athletics more than skateboarding. These all collide at booth 102, where you can watch street artists design custom skateboard decks. Check in with the team from Morningstar, and you might find yourself taking one home.
We all know coffee is the fuel that helps us survive the day, and we all know there is nothing worse than stale coffee in a hotel banquet room that has sat for hours. Grab a cup of freshly brewed coffee throughout the day at any of our high-end coffee carts located throughout the Boardwalk.
Ready to mingle with fellow female financial advisors? The Female Advisor Network Happy Hour is where you’ll want to be!
Held at X BAR, this is a great opportunity to network with other women during Future Proof.
Future Proof brings together the best and brightest advisors from across the country. This invite-only exclusive event allows the Investopedia Top 100 advisors to reconnect, share insights and celebrate their achievement of being named to this prestigious list.
Join 25+ key financial media, industry reporters, and other press for a media-only evening reception.
If you are a member of the press and are interested in participating get in touch with us today. Space is extremely limited.
As a member of the press, you will have the opportunity to RSVP for both receptions on Sunday and Monday.
Hear podcast legend and host of Masters In Business Barry Ritholtz for a can’t miss live recording of the most influential podcast covering the world of business.
Maximize your time at Future Proof by participating in a 10-person advisor networking dinner organized by us and industry partners. Held at popular downtown Huntington Beach restaurants, our organized Advisor Networking Dinners will provide you with a one-of-a-kind culinary experience while making new friends and catching up with old ones. Space is extremely limited. Must RSVP.
Just because you are away from home it does not mean you need to miss your workout. Start each day with a HIIT beach workout hosted by the Future Proof communities Jess Bost. * space is limited, preregisteration required
Future Proof puts a value on your health and ability to decompress from the grind of festival life. Begin your day with a focus on centering body and mind for a day of meetings, networking, and more.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Set the tone for each day as you take the time to relax your mind, center your thoughts and prepare yourself for the day ahead.
We are in Surf City U.S.A – of course we are going to have surf lessions. Whether you are catching barrels are just learning to stand come out be part of the community and tick learning to surf off your bucket list.
Investing has become mainstream and nowhere is this better encompassed than in the new documentary film This is Not Financial Advice. Join us as we invite the cast and crew for an open conversation on the mindset of today’s investors, and take a closer look at investing as a cultural phenomenon and show clips from the movie.
Cultural icons and financial influencers Earn Your Lesuire host their wildly popular Market Mondays Show live from the Future Proof stage. This can’t miss sessions ties together market events and education to help investors be better invested.