Transcript: Dave Welling

Transcript: Dave Welling 1

Transcript Dave Welling

 

 

The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Dave Welling, Mercer Advisors, is below.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

 

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ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have a special guest. His name is Dave Welling and he is the CEO of Mercer Advisors. Dave is a fascinating guy who has really a very interesting career path through everything from consulting to private equity to technology, all the way into the financial services business.

He brings a very different perspective to that industry. He never was an advisor but he has worked in and around financial services his whole career and that really gives him a unique perspective. He has done quite an amazing job of building Mercer from a $7 billion or $9 billion shop to a $21 billion plus shop, one of the fastest-growing firms in the industry.

I forgot to mention during our conversation that he was named the CEO of the year by one of the financial magazines. He comes to us with just a very straightforward honest perspective about what the financial services should be doing to both take care of its clients and employees, but as well as being a force for good in the world, I found this to be a fascinating conversation and I expect you will also.

With no further ado, my conversation with Mercer Advisors’ Dave Welling.

VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

RITHOLTZ: My special guest this week is Dave Welling, he is the CEO of Mercer Advisors, a Denver-based RIA with 400 employees and over $21 billion in assets under management. Dave Welling, welcome to Bloomberg.

DAVE WELLING, CEO, MERCER ADVISORS: Barry, it’s great to be here. Looking forward to it.

RITHOLTZ: So you have a really interesting job history that I want to discuss before we start getting into the details of Welling, you were at Advent, you were at Black Diamond, Charles Schwab, Bain & Company. Tell us a little bit about your career path.

WELLING: Sure. So yes, I think what you are getting at, Barry, I may be not the traditional head of an advisory firm because I didn’t start as an adviser but I spent close to the last 30 years of my life supporting, enabling, and as I call it, clearing the path for advisers.

So I was very, very fortunate back in the mid-90s to join Charles Schwab in a really unique role and opportunity. I joined as a Chief of Staff, which was a completely made up job for one of the Vice Chairman running the advisor business in the 401(k) business. I have had a chance to view with Chuck as part of the job, so, boy, you know, talk about lucky as a way to enter this industry and do it the right way and learn the right principles, you know, had the chance to work down the hall from Chuck and learn from him.

But that was the – it was 1997 and prior to that, I had some experiences but they were in management consulting and like a lot of management consulting sites, I dabbled in a lot of industries. I worked in telco, I worked in consumer products, I worked in technology, I worked in across-the-board and actually worked in the private equity-consulting practice of Bain & Company.

And, you know, while that was an awesome experience and a great foundation for learning business and found myself really wanting to find an industry that had a real purpose and to find a company and a place in that industry where you could really innovate and Schwab became that place for me at the beginning of my career, obviously I’ve had some other stops along the way, and I’m sure we’ll get to talk about those but really lucky I spent 12 years at Schwab through the growth and evolution of that business and to find the independent advisor industry and I just fell in love with it.

You know, there’s challenges, there is market turbulences, but we all have this compass, which is the client and doing the right thing for them. So it’s been very, very, very good to me over the years.

RITHOLTZ: So you had gone from Bain to Schwab and after 12 years at Schwab, you left to go to Black Diamond, which seems to be like a much more technologically focused less straight up wealth management company than Schwab. What was that transition like and did I misstate that? It sounds like they’re two very different companies in a similar field.

WELLING: Well, yes, Black Diamond for those who don’t know, is a technology provider, most notably in web-based, cloud based development providing, reporting to advisors to help them tell their stories whether they were managing portfolios or providing a broader wealth management offering like Mercer Advisors does.

And I guess similar to the story about financial services that I wasn’t an engineer, right? I wasn’t – didn’t grow up as a developer, I just really understood the space and understood what advisors did and that was 2009. So heels of the financial crisis, I decide it was the right time to leave Schwab, pick my family up from the San Francisco Bay area and join a technology company in Northeastern Florida.

All of my friends in the Bay Area, thought I was completely not for leaving the safety and security of a big company even despite the difficulties we were having, I was doing very well there, I was continuing to grow and get — be given more responsibilities.

But I have this idea and I wanted to get involved in technology. I really felt like that today but especially at that time 2009, that technology was going to be a part of solving the challenges that are industry based and the consumers were clamoring for.

So I had this meta-investment thesis, if you will, that technology was going to move from the back office to the front office as we talk about an advisory firms and help advisers run their businesses more efficiently with more scale and more consistency, but also give the consumer what they were demanding which was more transparency at that time.

I think as you know and might even remember, it was a very dynamic time, consumers wanted to know how they were doing where they were and what Black Diamond did was on a daily basis, T plus one or next day was able to tell clients at a very granular level how they were doing, not just pulling up the last quarterly performance report which could’ve been two and half or three months old given the timing of how those report out and be able to tell folks very dynamically.

So it was a great opportunity and a risk, if you will, on one level, but probably the best career decision I ever made. You know, we all face these opportunities and these roads that we meet in our careers and that was an opportunity for me to try my hand at something that was much, much more entrepreneurial.

It was very small when I joined, it was 20 employees, less than 2 million in annual revenues …

RITHOLTZ: Wow.

WELLING: Good product but certainly not a big business, so all pretty big difference from big company with a lot of resources to drop to an environment that was still trying to break through, still try to get known and develop its footing, and well, I’ve left that part of my career behind, it was over three years ago when I left that team, there is now more than 500 people in Northeastern Florida, it’s one of the best companies to work for in Northeast Florida so you know, very proud of that part of my career heritage.

It didn’t start that way but nothing like being thrown into an entrepreneurial situation to figure out whether you got the goods to be able to bootstrap and do things yourself rather than rely on big, big teams to do things for you.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about the next entrepreneurial opportunity.

Not too long ago, you end up at Mercer Advisors. What was the transition like becoming a CEO of a wealth management firm when you were previously working in what really is a technology company?

WELLING: The transition was quick and it was a change. I finished work at Black Diamond, and Black Diamond had over the years, had been acquired by Advent Software which then in turn had been acquired by SS&C Technology, so I have gone from this small entrepreneurial company who actually was running Advent to the international company with offices all over the world, as a division of SS&C.

You know, we’re 400 million in annual revenues, you know, thousands of employees, was coleader of that business but I was longing again to get back to something that was a little bit more entrepreneurial and a little bit closer to home in terms of focusing on the advisor business.

So I finished work at 6 PM on a Friday, 6 AM the next morning, I was on a plane and then Sunday night, I had dinner with Dave Barton who was the CEO of Mercer for eight years prior to me joining. And the juncture where Mercer was at the time was growing very quickly organically, but also had had an opportunity and interest to go through some acquisitions and acquire smaller practices of financial planners all over the country who are looking for that solution.

Dave went left, meaning Dave jumped into a Vice Chairman role and started focusing on mergers and acquisitions and that created an opportunity for me to join the organization and help lead the next chapter.

So very different business, probably the biggest difference structurally isn’t what you think, it is not technology versus wealth management, it’s people largely all in one place with the sales teams spread around the country which is technology to Mercer, you know, we’re about 450 employees today spread across 45 offices…

RITHOLTZ: Wow.

WELLING: So I would like to say, 45 leases that we’re paying for in different parts of the country so it’s very differently to lead a culture that is spread as thin as we are, and lead it as one team.

So different transition in that respect to figure out how to land and earn the trust of the team and to led the organization what we’re so dispersed, at least physically dispersed.

RITHOLTZ: So I want to get to the issue of growing through mergers and acquisitions. But before we go there, I have to stick with two questions about your transition to being CEO.

The first one is how does an outsider come into a relatively small privately held company as a CEO? That sounds like it’s a big challenge.

Tell us a little bit about that transition.

WELLING: So the history of Mercer is actually pretty unique, and you know, my position as CEO comes in after a long history of ownership transition, leadership transition.

So Kendrick Mercer, the founder of the business founded Mercer in 1985, we’re one of the first fee-only financial planning firms in the country. Kendrick, a very unique guy, passionate about financial planning but had a lot of other life interests, made a decision to bring in a partner group in the early 90s, 1991 brought on five partners, Dave Barton who I mentioned earlier was one of those partners.

In 2003, we brought in our first CEO, so I’m not the first CEO of the business that for a couple of transition of CEOs if you will, and the interesting thing about Mercer when you look at what’s happening in our industry is we made this transition from a single founder to a partnership, a partnership to a CEO mandate to outside capital investments and private equity.

So when we talk about mergers and acquisition, Mercer has been down a lot of these paths, we evaluated the options and decisions at different junctures of our history because we have been around for so long, we’ve made those decisions over the years.

So my entry as CEO came into a business that was used to having a CEO, also had a lot of outside capital and I’m sure you know, a really important part of the CEO is not just leading the business but manage the investor base as well and keeping them confident and comfortable and be able to path the business forward.

What was tricky for me at the time of entering the business in 2017 was to get the team to know me. So the very first thing that I did was certainly not sit in headquarters and try and do planning, I got on a plane, at that time, we certainly do that, it is unfortunate we can’t do it now and I went to visit every single office, sat with the teams, talked to them about what was working, what was not working, what I thought we should do to move forward. The best thing I ever did because it both connected me to the culture and team and inversely helped the team understand who I was and where I was coming from.

RITHOLTZ: Very interesting.

So in 2017, the firm was under $10 billion. Today, you are over $20 billion, that’s not that long time to more than double in size, was that your vision from day one to begin acquiring other advisory shops? How did this approach come about?

WELLING: Yes, I guess it was certainly part of our most recent history, but the vision and purpose of the organization is to help clients and help them on their path to economic freedom. So as we talked about a little earlier, you know, the firm has been around 35 years and we’ve only been doing acquisitions over the last four. What had happened over the first 30 plus years is the business had grown to be a national firm, we had 18 offices all around the country, we’re about 6 billion at that time prior to doing our first acquisition, and we had gone through the work and figured out that working as 18 different teams wasn’t going to work.

We had a centralized investment team, a common client experience, we had built our estate planning team and tax team, we had built the set of services that we provide our clients and had built a culture of working together despite being physically separated across those 18 offices. And what we found was there was both interest and an opportunity for other firms who are like-minded to join us, to get access to that set of services and capabilities.

And you know, in this industry, there’s a lot of great professionals out there, a lot of great independent investment advisers out there who work as true fiduciaries that they have small practices, it’s a very fragmented industry.

And some of those principles that were at one time entrepreneurs had wealth from entrepreneurs to start and think about their retirement. And they were looking for a place to put their practice, put their business, put their clients in it in the hands of a firm that had shared interest, shared beliefs, and a shared value system.

So it was this coming together of Mercer having an appetite to grow and the ability to grow, a desire to grow, but also huge demand from firms that were just like Mercer. We’ve acquired businesses that while they’re a lot smaller, have also been around for 30 years and some of the first fee-only financial planning firms in the country.

And what is different about acquisitions and in our industry and our space and in this context is those sellers are looking for much more than a transaction and a valuation of their business, that’s what I saw in technology.

You see it all the time when Amazon buys companies or Google buys companies, you know, they are buying the technology, they want the engineers, but it’s very different than this industry, these are people who set out on their own, have been running their own business for 20 years, and it’s their life work and they’re not going to put their clients into a bad investment and they are not going to put their clients into a situation where the firm that is taking over the business and becoming a succession plan for them doesn’t share the same values and beliefs and system.

So I think what has really propelled our acquisition strategy is a combination of the two things. One, we’ve done quite a few of them out by the time we finished this year, we would have done over 40 acquisitions in four years, so over 10 a year on average.

And the second is all those firms believing their clients are going to be better served after, easy example and I think we might talk about this later, we have a dedicated estate planning team and a dedicated tax team, not just CPAs and lawyers who are practicing advisers. We have dedicated teams that all they do is put together estate plans for clients, and those are often huge uptake services for clients in this context.

So the sellers see hey, this is not just good for me, this is going to be a good solution for my clients.

RITHOLTZ: So I want to discuss the various wealth management services Mercer offers in a few minutes, let’s focus now on the merger and acquisition process. You guys have completed 40 in four years, that’s quite a robust number, tell us a little bit about your process, how do you find companies to acquire, are you looking for them, do they come to you? Give us a little behind the scenes explanation as to what this process is like.

WELLING: Yes, there’s a — there’s obviously a courtship process, right? There is – do we like them and do they like us process which you know, picks up on the comment I made before and maybe we can come back and what happens after, right?

It’s the confirmation, the acquisition itself, the closing date, that is just the milepost on the building of a broader relationship. But focusing on before that milepost, the more acquisitions we’ve done, the more people find their way to us because we have now become a known option that has a certain value proposition, right?

So we are, as I call it, an integrator, not an aggregator. We’re going to become one business, one integrated client experience, and that is very appealing not just to our shareholders and from a business perspective, it is very relevant to the context of some of the situations where we find sellers that are looking for a succession plan or a place to transition their practice or their business.

We’re very active in the industry. My involvement in the industry for 30 plus years, I’ve probably been in a thousand different advisor offices around the country over the years, just physical offices.

RITHOLTZ: Wow.

WELLING: So those relationships are sort of really helpful because we’re not starting from scratch, there’s some prior intersection, it may have been several years where firms that I’ve known, principals that I’ve known over the years that I’ve had the fortune to build a relationship with and helping them build that business or just be on the sidelines cheering for them is very relevant to the meeting and greeting part of it.

But once he kind of get the conversation going, we believe in a really rich interface of dialogue between our firm and their firm, the best context is there’s several people deep in our firm and several people deep and they are sort of talking to each other not about the valuation of the transaction, that’s probably less than five percent of the content. It’s important but it is relatively straightforward and a place to land on whether you are going to have a similar sense of what the value of the business is.

The most important part is how are we going to be better together than we were apart?

What is this going to be like for clients, what tools are in the tool chest both at Mercer or in the business that we are acquiring? We’ve acquired several practices that have not just been wealth management firms that had dedicated accounting teams themselves, right?

So that has been really appealing for us to build our tax business, build our expertise and our tax business and for them to know the acquirer really believed in having that part of the business because not everybody in our industry really wants that, to be part of their core service offering.

So that – you know, the (inaudible) so by the time we get to okay that we’re going to do this acquisition and the close date, we have mutual clarity on what we’re trying to create together, we have a vision of how things are to come together at a pretty granular level and you know, one of the things that we didn’t touch on earlier in my experience when I was at Black Diamond.

Black Diamond was bought by Advant. Advant was a public company, it was bought by a C and given the scale of the transaction, but most of the employees found out about it on a random Tuesday and then we were scrambling to figure out what the strategy was and how the pieces were going to fit together.

We have an opportunity in the context of these acquisitions to do a lot of work up front to make sure that the uncertainty that can be there in these transition is really limited, the uncertainty for clients, the uncertainty for employees, because we say, well, this is what it’s going to look like in this is how it’s going to work, a huge opportunity.

And that helps people feel really confident when we make these decisions.

RITHOLTZ: So under normal circumstances, there’s a lot of meet and greet, there is a lot of back and forth, but obviously these are not normal circumstances, how do you do these sorts of deals that require a little bit of staring each other in the eye and making sure everybody’s comfortable with each other during a pandemic where we’re kind limited to Zoom and not person-to-person meetings. What — what’s it been like this year?

WELLING: Yes, there is no question it’s a lot harder, right? I think you know, the uptick, people look at the disadvantages, right?

This is the – at its core, this is a kneecap to kneecap business, that’s how advisers build their relationships with clients particularly at the beginning and this bond of trust that needs to form over an extended period of time of delivering value is just as true in this context of acquisitions as it is in the context of an advisor working with our clients and I’m sure many of your listeners, that will resonate with them.

But what’s been really interesting about using Zoom and the technology, it has actually enabled us to have a much quicker cadence and to have more people from the firms we are acquiring be engaged in the process and more people engaged in the Mercer team.

We just did a call yesterday morning that went three hours with a firm that is going to be joining us at the end of the year and we had eight people from the Mercer team coming in at different time segments talk about how their — the employee benefits are going to work, how the investment mapping is going to work, how our estate planning team is going to work.

That would’ve been hard for us to do in a different context to fly eight people from Mercer across the country and get all their employees into one room and do that, do that together, we had a team and I’ve always done that. But it’s interesting where we have been able to engage multiple people and then there some follow-up question. So we get back on the phone, right? And get the Zoom back for — probably backup, so I think our industry is wrestling with what does life look like after with all this technology, I think we found that it actually can be really enriching and help pick up the cadence and avoid the scheduling of – well, are we going to fly cross-country to meet each other.

I think we would love to add that back in but there’s a real learning here for us as an industry about how the technology can help support these relationships in conversations at a much quicker cadence and involve more people where it’s only an hour investment of their time, you go right at the question that they have and address it and if you’re — you need somebody to come in because something comes up, somebody can just joined join the session live rather than have to jump on a plane and fly across country.

So I think I’m a little bit surprised about how well it’s gone.

RITHOLTZ: A little bit of lemonade out of the pandemic to say the least.

WELLING: Sure.

RITHOLTZ: So in a previous conversation, I discussed the sort of multiples that we’ve seen in the industry with Peter Mallouk of Creative Planning and he pointed out that things started out fairly inexpensively, but there’s just such a wash of private equity money and with yields as low as they are, well-run advisory firms are very similar to a bond and that they throw off a pretty decent yield with a very modest amount of risk.

What are you seeing in terms of multiples? Have prices for advisory firms gotten out of hand or are things a little more reasonable this year given all the experience we’ve had with remote work and the pandemic?

WELLING: This is one of things where it has — it pays to had been around this industry for quite a while, right?

So having seen acquisitions, having seen how outside capital thinks about our industry, I think there’s some things happening that are actually quite fundamental, you know, I think Peter is right, you know, valuations are going to up, right? Your question. But I think what’s happening is people are starting to realize the value, right?

So who an independent RIA is and why that is different than a wirehouse broker, what does it really need to be a fiduciary, there’s obviously been a huge narrative in our industry about the fiduciary standards and the importance of that is still shocking to me that not every advisor working with clients isn’t required to be a fiduciary.

We of course, are, I know your firm are, but that’s not the way the rest of our industry is. So people are learning that from a business perspective, I think the outside capital is really starting to learn that these are quality businesses, very high retention, very high recurring cash flow, why? Because the advisors do good work and the clients like it and they tell more people about it, right?

So in a cash flow business or in a service business, or an outside investor, it’s a little hard sometimes to wrap your head around until you see the patterns of success over sustained period of time.

And so what’s happening in our industry I think is the outside capital in particular finally starting to recognize the value of this industry most fundamentally in terms of the value it provides the consumer and how this industry continues to grow and how these businesses continue to grow.

So that is a big Y, right when you look at macro versus micro trends, now you come into micro trends your you get a little bit more about what Peter may have been talking about which is there’s a lot of well-financed purposeful buyers like Mercer and others that are interested in investing in the space. You have sellers who are interested in a transition for their clients, as I said earlier, a transition that feels like they’re putting in a home that is similar for the same in terms of value offering that they built up over the years, and you get a lot more interest in the space.

But fundamentally, you know, it’s a good investment for us, acquisitions we do, we average 98 percent, 99 percent retention for years after the fact …

RITHOLTZ: Wow.

WELLING: Even in years after a principal may be retired, and I was on the phone and I mentioned that stat to you know, one of the firms who recently sold the business that I bet you could — Mercer didn’t screw things up, right?

And we added some value but fundamentally that what the business was before we bought it, right?

So that — that’s why these things are interesting. Where Mercer really can add value is in expanding the services for those clients or the clients are experiencing more value and we are often able to get growth turned back on in a business that maybe grew at one time but over the last few years maybe had slowed significantly on growth, you know, from a market perspective.

But I think, yes, yes valuations are going up but that is because there’s value and people are starting to recognize it.

RITHOLTZ: So I have a bunch of more questions about the space on culture and lessons and the role of Barton as former CEO and now your head of M&A. But before I go there, I have to ask how important is private equity to these deals, how are they usually structured? Is it part cash, part earn out over time? What do these look like?

WELLING: Sure, so you know, deal structures evolve in the industry and you know people like to say the market sets prices and the markets set the deal structure, too. We talked about valuation but structure is just as important I would say as the actual valuation.

So you know, I think that the structures vary but usually there’s a significant amount of cash or capital upfront, there is some in and earn out to make sure the business transitions well and retention stays in place.

So that oscillates over time from the maybe 60 percent upfront and 40 percent in an earnout, focused around retention and effective transition of the business. So that is from a structural standpoint, we provide opportunity for people to have equity in Mercer, we have the opportunity actually for every employee of the company to buy into the company, so that may sound strange given the fact that we have private equity investors but really important, you know?

And I think, you know, we maybe unpacked the private equity piece a little bit fundamentally what private equity ownership does for us and being a person that that is leading a business that has had private equity involvement since 2008, right, was with our first private equity investment. It has made the CEO seat and the business accountable to become what we were capable of becoming, right?

So I am accountable to the board if I don’t do my job well, I could be fired or let go and fundamentally I think that’s good for employees and good for the client, right? Which is, you know, is this …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WELLING: …is this business delivering on its promise to its clients, and if it is not, you know, what responsibility does the CEO hold for that?

So I think people miss that, they just talk about it is there is capital and I actually think about it more as accountability and responsibility and something for the business to become what it is capable of becoming.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting.

Let’s stick with the space and discuss the corporate culture. How do you, as CEO, maintain a corporate culture when first, everybody is in far-flung locations in 45 separate offices, we do something similar on a smaller scale. And second, you are adding new bodies, new organizations and new people to a company that might have had a somewhat different prior culture. How do you integrate all of that?

WELLING: Yeah, I think when we’re – we just talked about acquisitions, the first test is really culture, right? So there’s culture, there is strategy and then there’s financials, so it needs to make cultural sense and strategic sense before you even bother talking about valuation of the business.

So fortunately, you know, we focused on buying financial planning firms, we focused on buying firms who believe and operate under the fiduciary standards and we focused on firms who have the a similar but not maybe always identical investment philosophy, but investment philosophy that rooted as an outcome of the financial plan rather than, you know, an alpha shop focusing on a particular sleeve or sector or investments type.

So that’s really important, right? Because you’re starting from a place where there’s good cultural alignment in terms of values, principles, and a belief in how the client could be served.

So when we are spread all across the country, you know, Mercer for years did a big annual event and you know, as we got bigger, the event got bigger, we broke from that over two years ago and started doing a lot of smaller events. We were just growing so quickly that we could add 50, 60 employees in three months after the event happened, the big annual event happened.

So we moved the corporate headquarters back in the beginning of 2018 out of California to Denver, Colorado, part of the purpose of that was to be central we called it not headquarters we call it central hub, and in non-Covid pandemic years, we would hold close to 30 different peer sessions in the hub where people would come in, meet their peers from other offices around the country.

So we wouldn’t take the Santa Barbara team and bring the Santa Barbara team in, we would take all the financial planners and get them talking to their peers and that helped foster the cultural connection that coincidentally, this is a play from the Bain playbook, you know, Bain & Company where I worked at offices all over the world, they take consultants at each rank, they take new managers from all over the world, and you build relationships with people working in other parts of the world, they be could be helpful for you if you got to a project later.

So that was really helpful in helping build a culture, we also have a number of programs and initiatives including our investors program, employee resource groups of different kinds that allow employees the opportunity to engage with peers and individuals who maybe not only are in a same position, but care about the same things that they care about. That’s been really productive.

In the pandemic, we have to work a lot harder. All of us are trying to figure out how to do those things virtually, it has to be much more purposeful. I think there are things that in non-pandemic time that could be organic and a little bit free-form, but we we’ve evolved to a state where we’re doing virtual happy hours, we’re doing, you know, sessions where people are baking Christmas cookies together or holiday celebrations together depending on their faith. So it’s been purposeful and a little bit more centrally coordinated to remind people that this is an important part of building our culture.

So, you know, as you talk about acquisitions, you know, I can touch on that briefly…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WELLING: You know, I think we have similar origin stories and beliefs, but we — it’s important for us to recognize that we are this tapestry of different businesses that have different origin stories. So people sometimes confuse culture with norms and habits and traditions, right?

So traditions are important parts of a culture, sure? But fundamentally we think about it as principles and have people be willing to adapt and not just adapt to the Mercer way, we adapt practices at firms that we acquire.

So you — in some ways, preserve, recognize, and celebrate the heritage that was there at some of the businesses that had joined us as well.

RITHOLTZ: Very interesting.

And my final question on the M&A practice, there had to be some interesting lessons you’ve picked up along the way doing 40 acquisitions in just a few short years. What did you learn, what are some of the pitfalls to be avoided?

WELLING: Yes, so I’m an analogy guy and the one that I’ll use here and like to use is paddle boarding, right? So I used to live in Florida when I was working at Black Diamond and we lived on the ocean and I had a paddleboard, right?

So if you’ve done on vacation, you know, you get out on a paddleboard, you get in the chop and you get in the waves and you see people kind of standstill and try and get their balance, and anybody ‘who’s been on a paddleboard whether it’s just you know, on a vacation or has actually owned one like I did know the best way to keep your balance on a paddle board is to get it moving, right?

So momentum plus having to paddle in the water are critical to keeping stability.

So I think, you know, early on, we tried to go very slow, we had this phrase of quote “Do no harm” and unfortunately, do no harm maybe started to turn into doing no good, we weren’t on the same system together, we hadn’t set up the umbilical cord to connect people with our estate planning team and tax team which are often services they haven’t had and well, the pace is measured and cautious for all – a whole bunch of good reasons, I think the biggest lesson is you have to have momentum, and the momentum needs to start from the very beginning.

And that’s been really critical to get a clear plan in place, a clear destination, I think the other key learning we have, and this comes from meeting a guy who is part of the business that was acquired twice and wishing, you know, a couple times I had a do over is one of the things that we do just before a firm joined us, so we’re to have a couple firms join us here at the end of the year, we do an internal call it Mercer with all the heads of the departments, not just the executive team, but there’s maybe 20 people on the call and we walk through who is this firm, who are the people, what are their hopes, dreams, fears, and aspiration, what is the vision of what we’re trying to create together?

Because this relationship that was formed in the courtship process maybe didn’t involve all those people and it’s important for them to understand all that and to be — walk through that.

So it gives the selling entity a running start if you will that the entire Mercer team understands what we are trying to create and understands what the discussions were and understands what their concerns were, right, of how things are going to go or certain piece of their client experience that needed to stay in place whatever the discussion was.

So those two things have been really important and what’s interesting is there – more vision oriented versus tactical planning, right? So sort of a — an understanding in terms of how we are going to come together and where we are going and we are going to move together, right? And having the teams understand that.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting.

Let’s talk a little bit about the lack of diversity in the financial services industry. Your firm puts on something called “InvestHERS” which is a woman’s initiative designed to promote diversity in the adviser space. Tell us a little bit about that.

WELLING: Yes, so InvestHERS, H-E-R-S capitalized, is a program that we put in place a little over three years ago. And I think you know and our entire industry knows, we really struggle with diversity, all right?

A lot of the industry is still male, stale, and pale as folks like to say.

RITHOLTZ: (LAUGHTER).

WELLING: And the question is how do you affect change in something that feels at the outset very difficult to change?

So yes, I would like to go back and talk about like where that idea came from and when I joined the business as CEO in 2017, I mentioned a little bit earlier in the podcast that the first thing I did was travel the country and visit our then 30 offices, we’re now close to 50 offices but the 30 offices and the first thing I saw was we had and were very fortunate to have a number of incredibly talented women who are already part of our organization as advisors, financial planners, estate planning team, on and on and on.

And then about 40 percent of our client advisory staff are women, today, we’re a little over 45 percent closer to 50 percent. So we had a good starting point. Those folks didn’t have to be in leadership positions at the time and we also change that both through this program and through merit, these are talented people, we weren’t doing it as any – just like, hey, let’s become more diverse, these are talented people that we asked to step into leadership roles all around the country.

The second thing was I attended an event and there was a panel of women leaders in our industry who were talking about all the trends around women in wealth and how women are going to live longer and how many women are head of the house, a bunch of things that being a guy who loves data, were all kind of clear to me and intuitive to me.

What I was stuck on was exactly what we should do next, right?

So I understood the problem, I understood the metrics, and why it was important, but try to figure out what to do next was a real challenge. And fortunately, go back to this, we had these talented people in the organization, I tapped a couple of them on the shoulder and I said look, we — I really want to launch this thing, I don’t know what to call it, you are going to have to figure out what to call it because we don’t need a male, stale, and pale middle aged white dude deciding what we should call a program like this, but I need your leadership and I will give you unconditional support, but you need to tell me what you’re going to do.

And what they landed on was the charter that had both the boot the leg of our strategy and purpose and charter that program to drive more diversity in our business and in the industry, the second was to make sure we were really relevant and in tune with the needs of our female client, so it has an internal purpose and an external purpose.

And at least for us, that is kind of the biggest learning is having both has been really important to get the flywheel on this turning and start to — start to help us make progress. The elevation and empowerment of the talented women in our organization has helped us from recruiting, right? Has helped us bring more talent into the organization, we do scholarships, we have relationships with universities that they go to work this cause, but it is really the engagement of the women professionals in our organization that has been a draw for talent, and then our clients see that, right?

Our clients see a firms that reflects them, reflects their values and it helped us externally, all those things work together to help propel it. It was hard to get started and hard to know what exactly to do first, but we had this great starting point of having talented women already in our organization who were passionate about this and have the energy and had my support whether it was funding or just verbal support to help get things going.

So it’s been a big success for us in the steering committee and the that now hundreds of women that had been involved in that. We just did our virtual — we usually do an annual event around InvestHERS at a nice retreat for a couple of days, we did that virtually over a two-week period, we just wrapped that up and had more than half of our company participate that, including some men, right? Who participated in that, who want to be better advocates, want to be better allies, and are just as committed to the cause as our women professionals are.

RITHOLTZ: You have a quote I really like, “Tell us what we can do to” quote “stand together and do the next right thing” unquote.

WELLING: Yes, so this came out of the very challenging times that we have had in 2020 around, more broadly, diversity in our country and the systemic inequalities that exist and I think like a lot of leaders, I’ve handed notes to the team talking about what we stood for and reminding them that in the air of diversity, there is, you know, we really needed to do the right thing. And then it became — with some encouragement from some folks in my team, I posted it to social media together, and it was right on the heels of the death of George Floyd and others, just tragic and the team was just, you know, gut wrenched, right?

And I think stuck in this place of we know this is wrong but we’re not quite sure what to do next and I think, you know, as we have embarked on this and you know, far less progress to be able to rely at this stage then we’ve made in our women’s program and women’s initiative.

And I got to this point where it’s we, A, needed to say something, B, more importantly needed to listen. So there is range of huge desire to quote “do something.”

The first thing I felt like was important was to listen. So we held, probably it does and maybe as many as 20 internal forums for our employees to talk about the issues around diversity and inequalities in our country, and that was really powerful, there is this desire to do something but I think all of us are recognizing that we needed to ground ourselves in understanding and listening first.

So I think where we are today, we’ve taken a number of actions, we – I have joined a group here in Colorado called Inclusive Economy, it’s a group of about 25 CEOs with some nonprofit involvement as well around helping Colorado become a more diverse economy.

And I think what I’ve landed on, I’m a liberal arts undergrad guy so this got an alliteration coming here, but it’s about actions, you taking actions, it is also about creating allies. I have connected with a number of advisors in our profession who care about the same things and we’re trying to work together on these issues, and the inclusive economy program in Colorado is about allies, about 25 CEOs of companies in Colorado working together to try and drive effective change and it is also about accountability, right?

Being part of that male, pale, and stale crowd, I think part of my job, you know, part of our job is to hold my peers accountable, right? And I think that’s something that I really learned this year is you need to do more than just do the right thing yourself, you need to step up particularly those of us there are fortunate enough to be in leadership roles and hold others accountable.

And we need to be emboldened that we need to make progress but not be discouraged that their starting point sucks, right? We don’t like where we are, we don’t like — but there’s no option in my mind, the other phrase that is in that article that I put together is about relentless forward progress. I have got some good friends who are ultra marathoners and when I have the time, one of the things I do is go and I support them on these 200 mile runs in crazy parts of the world, and you know, their mantra is relentless forward progress.

It doesn’t matter if you are tired, right? And it doesn’t matter is you think you want to stop, right? You have to make progress, right? And I think that’s, you know, what we are trying to do.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. You signed the UN principles for responsible investing some years ago, how has that affected the way Mercer is a steward of capital?

WELLING: Yes, so our chief investment officer Don Calcagni brought that to me and was a real advocate for it and it was one of those moments where you know, you had me at hello, right? Which was we want to be part of change and we felt like it was an important change and a number of — we work a number of separate account managers who also had been co-signatories to the UN principles for responsible investing as well.

What is interesting is not only are we signatories, we actually have some pretty unique capabilities under the hood in Mercer’s investment offering to provide SRI or ESG investing capabilities that are very customized and come at no additional expense to the investor. So very, very cost advantage, so even more cost advantage that some of the funds and resources that are available through Vanguard and other places that are known for being low expense.

And I think a lot of the industry, the internal narrative, right, has been well, this is something important but it feels very small and it is certainly not as big as it has been in Europe. And — but I think you’re starting to see interests from investors and that interest turn into that capital investments in 2020.

So pocketed now regionally in different parts of the country where investors really are interested in seeing their advisor have these capabilities, so that they can tailor investment portfolios to things that they care about, right?

So, you know, this extension of we need to act a certain way in the world but we want our money to act in the same way, right? So it’s just been hard, it’s been hard to access for the regular consumer and you know, we are happy to be playing a small part in helping democratize that access and have people be able to do the right thing with their money but not have it — have to cost them more money or come with inefficient portfolios.

So it’s been a good success for us.

RITHOLTZ: Very interesting. So let’s discuss the future of financial advice, you’re the perfect person to ask this question, how have client expectations evolved over the past few years?

WELLING: Well, I think, you know, investors now expect a lot more than an asset allocation strategy and investment portfolio, right? That is important, it’s an important part of somebody’s financial plan and obviously consumers remain very interested in investment so just those options and the role of an advisor helping put things together for an investor, there’s a lot of places they can get that now from you know, what the industry might call robo advisors to large retail shops that used to be known as discount brokerage shops but now are making those things available. And that is good for the consumer.

For us, we’ve been following the path of the consumer to provide more services, right? Beyond asset allocation and investment. So that has manifested itself in a business that offers comprehensive financial planning which has always been part of our core offering has manifested itself now to having a dedicated estate planning team, we will draft documents for the client and not cookie-cutter plans, customized plans, we have a tax team that does individual and business work together. But I think one of the other ingredients that is really important about Mercer is the way that the team has aligned us to work all as one team together and not multiple different departments, right?

So you know, having been a guy who had the fortune to live near one of the Mayo Clinics when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida, you know, Mayo Clinic does a very nice job of this in medicine where it is not just you’re going in for heart surgery or cancer, it’s a place you want to go it if you think something is wrong with you but you’re not sure because all those professionals across these different disciplines are there to help diagnose and figure out what’s going on.

So fortunately, when we meet consumers, there’s not health crisis but there is a lot of uncertainty about their financial affairs and they’re looking for somebody to help solve a problem that maybe is becoming more complex, right? They have an investment problem, they have some tax questions, they have some issues around their estate or there’s a recommendation that may need to involve all of those parties, right? You want to set up an asset protection trust, right?

They simply don’t want to have to go talk to three different professionals to get that put together and have the meter running at least two of those three places to be able to put together that strategy.

So I think as investors and the consumers have both aged and matured, there’s an expectation for those of us there in the seat of the professional advisor to help them ease that complexity and part of the complexity that exist in our industry is that it still, it is still split up in a lot of places.

So you know, Mercer’s vision and ideas to bring those expertise all under one roof and then to align those professionals around one standard which is let’s work together to provide the best set of recommendations and the best execution of those recommendations to get a plan in place and to get it finished.

So that is certainly where we’re going but I think as part of a broader secular shift of the sophistication and evolution of our entire industry.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s stay with the concept of that evolution. I’m intrigued by the idea of estate planning as well as tax planning not as discrete departments within a big company but is something that is integral to the entire financial planning process.

How do you manage to keep this part of the regular process and not have these become their own little neighborhood separate from the rest of the wealth planning process?

WELLING: Yes. Well, that goes to culture but it also goes to the mandate, right?

So we don’t charge for estate planning, it’s included as part of our advisory fee for clients so it’s complementary if you will, and we don’t charge hourly rates in your estate planning group or our tax group, right? So we do charge an annual fee for preparing the tax return for you know, especially if there is a business return there would be a fee for that as well to get to prepare the returns that is commensurate with what folks experience in the industry.

But our lawyers and our accountants also thereby are not measured the way it happens in other parts of the industry around billable hours. Our principle is serve the client, follow through and deliver the estate plan that was part of the recommendation and the financial plan. And oh by the way, if there’s an outside estate planning attorney that the client knows that they have worked with in the past, maybe they have existing documents in place that need to be updated, our lawyers will get on the phone with their lawyers, right?

So we’re not trying to earn a buck on – to bill on the estate planning, we’re just trying to help the client finish the recommendations that are in the financial plan. So to pull this off, you need to have a little bit more scale and there’s where — still at $21 billion, we’re small in the landscape of other firms out there but we’re big enough to be able to have these dedicated departments with individuals.

So we also keep — every client is assigned a point adviser manages the relationship if you want to use the medical analogy, that is the general practitioner, right? But the specialists are deployed into that relationship based on either A, client request, or B, more frequently, the point advisor’s recommendation of let’s get our estate planning team involved. And then the estate planning team is involved, right? Being able to help take care of the client.

So I think where this is broken down in other parts of our industry, there are some large tax firms that have wealth management practices and maybe that’s something that you’re referencing that they are different departments and it feels like that to the consumer, you might as well be going to a separate accounting firm altogether because you are jumping into a different silo.

So you have to tear down the silos and not let them get built, I think, and make sure that that everybody understands the same principle is that there’s one goal in mind, it’s serving the client.

RITHOLTZ: That makes perfect sense to me. You mentioned that at $21 billion, you’re relatively small, this is kind of the fast anything about the RIA industry, it’s kind of weird in that nobody really has meaningful marketshare.

So how do you think about the competition and do they even matter?

WELLING: Yes, I think it depends on how you frame it, right? So I think Fidelity’s probably the largest financial services firm in our country and still, until you measure it, maybe it has mid single-digit market share. So very, very fragmented industry. So at 21 billion, from a financial advisory perspective, you have the wirehouses out there, you know, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch that are trillions, right? So they are much, much larger than we are.

To me, that is the competition or the exact opposite of what we are and what we want to become. We operate under a fiduciary standard, we serve our clients, we’re purely an independent registered investment advisor. We don’t have an investment banking division, we don’t have other things that could introduce complex into the client relationship. So when you talk about fragmented, then you get in the segment of the industry that are registered investment advisers or fiduciaries.

I think a lot of us leading these firms you know, recognize that there’s more to be gained from us working together than from us seeing or perceiving each other as competitors. So I’m part of an industry study group, I have been part of that group for over 15 years, I’m very active in events. We share information on around our initiatives with each other because we believe that helping the entire category grow, firms that are adhering to that fiduciary standard is in — is in the best interest of the consumer and ultimately helps us, right? We can help each other punch above our weight class, if you will, from an industry perspective when we work together.

So I think that is important, I think you can look at – you can look competition as while they provide similar services to us at the margin, you know, I’m interested if the client doesn’t choose us that they find another good home, that has heard in the right way, so I don’t think that that is competition, I look at that as another consumer that was better served if they made the right choice.

So I think it’s interesting, and it is a little weird, right? It’s very different than how it felt when I was in technology and there any categories or two or three main players, that was competition, everybody looking at buying you piece of technology, was looking at the direct competitor and evaluating against each other, that is competition. This is not, right? This is different.

And I think it’s been one of the things that has really drawn and attracted me to this industry is this collegiality that you know, Mercer doesn’t have all the good ideas cornered and hasn’t figured a lot of things out, as an industry, you know, all of us are smarter than any one of us.

So it’s great that we have that culture to be able to share best practices and share learnings and help each other.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s stick with the industry as a whole, we just had a giant merger announced earlier this year, the Schwab TD merger, how do you think this is going to impact the industry at large and is there going to be more consolidation in the custodial space?

WELLING: Yes, I am short-term bearish long-term bullish on this one, and as we talked about earlier, I worked at Schwab for 12 years so I’ve got some insight not just at Schwab but from the other side of it.

I think, you know, ultimately it’s good for our industry in and frankly the writing was on the wall when we go to zero dollar transaction fees, right?

I can remember working at Schwab where we drop pricing to 29.95 and it was a – that’s a company moment right and that was back in the 90s, I think, you know, a long time ago, and it is a really great transition that we’re going through.

But I think these businesses are going to come together, they are going to put their capabilities of the two organizations together, they are short-term bearish and it’s going to take some time for that to happen and maybe divert interest around operational issues in the short-term. But long-term, I think it’ll create a healthy partner and ultimately that’s the most important outcome of this is as an advisor, when you work with the custodian, you really need that custodian to be healthy and for that custodian to be healthy, they needed not only have a good business serving advisers, they need to have a good retail business as well.

And the better those businesses are doing, the better it results in investment and in support for firms like us. So I’m bullish on sort of the opportunity of what it might mean. I’m not concerned about consolidation of different custodians. There’s enough choices out there and there’s new ones that could emerge to help solve that issue.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting.

I want to throw you a little bit of a curveball. In the 90s, when you left Bain, you were deciding on two companies, you ended up going to Schwab but the other one was a little startup in Seattle that ended up growing into Amazon. When you look back on that decision, what are your thoughts? Had had you been employee number 50, like I will imagine those stock options would’ve been pretty valuable.

WELLING: Yes, who knows, right? Who knows? Maybe I would’ve sucked and gotten fired in six months and it would’ve been a disaster, right?

RITHOLTZ: (LAUGHTER).

WELLING: You don’t, you don’t know, right? And I think yeah, it was a great opportunity I had the instincts that it was a great opportunity at the time, but you know, as we talked about a little bit earlier, my entry point to Schwab was pretty unique and I stepped in an interesting chair as the Chief of Staff to the Vice Chairman and I got to work down the hall from Chuck Schwab, my office — the office directly next to me was Chuck’s driver, right?

RITHOLTZ: Wow.

WELLING: And, you know, Chuck would walk by my office every morning, right? And he’d say hello and he would stop and sometimes we would have a chat and I think it was just a unique opportunity to join a highly entrepreneurial organization to work down the hall from you know, just somebody I have an immense respect for and was part of shaping the industry.

And it represented what I was really looking for the time even if I couldn’t have put words onto the moment was to join an industry, join a profession, join a business that had a real purpose and a purpose that was something other than yourself or the company itself was about serving clients and some things that had become, were at the time, had become a big part of why I have stuck around this industry for so long.

So yes, maybe it would have worked out great, you know, maybe I wouldn’t have sucked and maybe I would’ve done well, but you can’t make those kind of choices, you know, or kind of use that 20/20 in hindsight, well, what if I chose this? I kind of feel like there is probably you know, four or five decisions like that that I have made my career to go right instead of left and all the paths would’ve been great, right?

So you got to enjoy the road you’re on and enjoy the journey and enjoy the opportunity that you have right now and not look back or anything like that with regret, I certainly don’t.

RITHOLTZ: I like that philosophy, I don’t know if you had the same experience but I’ve had to convince people that Charles Schwab is a real guy and the person you see on TV is not an actor. Have you ever had people raise that question with you?

WELLING: I actually haven’t, but you know, he is this larger-than-life figure head, right in this huge company that is his namesake which is interesting.

You know, the interesting thing about Chuck is he is quite shy, right?

So you know, so he is, and don’t mean that is a strength, you listen to every word that he says in meetings, so I just I think I look back on that with so much fondness and that’s something that I hope to represent in a CEO chair now, you got to look at how he made decisions internally and it was always about the client, right?

And mathematically, some decisions were very brave from a financial perspective that you’d be sitting in meetings and there would be an intense debate over a particular issue and Chuck would just be quiet for 45 minutes of the meeting and he finally just lean and very quietly say “look, there’s only one choice here, right? What’s right for the client?”

And you know, it’s a great environment to have had the great fortune to grow up in and see the kind of decisions made, right? Business is about a lot of things so at the core, it’s hard to build a great business if you’re not doing the right thing for clients and clients don’t like you and your employees don’t like coming at work. So you know, I think those are really important things that I take away from them.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting I know I only have you for a few more minutes so let’s jump to our speed round, these are our favorite questions we ask all of our guests and we run through them quickly. Let’s jump into them.

We are all working from home these days, what are you streaming, what you are doing to entertain yourself give us your favorite Netflix or Amazon prime shows you are watching.

WELLING: Well, I think like a lot of people we burn through just about everything, right, from streaming or watching. So I think the podcast – I’m a big podcast listener, I still like to get out and hike and run, so I love Cereal both the classic episodes as well as some of the leader series, you know, I love “How Stuff Works, you know, I love sort of learning and getting something that’s really out of field and out of industry from a learning perspective.

My son and I started re-watching old episodes of “The Office” together which is a heck a lot of fun , he is 15 and it’s fun to go back and sort of have that moment for nostalgia and rewatch some things.

But again, we burn through so many different — different miniseries. I’m looking for some recommendations, too.

RITHOLTZ: I will shoot you a list of my favorites. Let’s jump over to mentors, who helped shape your career?

WELLING: Well, we talked about you know, career we talk about some of the experiences I had at Schwab and other places I think the thing I think of a lot and particularly this year is my mom, and my mom — my mom passed away earlier this year not Covid -related just from age and wear and tear.

So you know, it you gave me a lot of chance to reflect on the lessons that she taught me that are more important than business and life. So she is a Kiwi, she’s a New Zealander, first moved to London then moved to New York in her early 20s and met my dad and stayed, but like a lot of Kiwis, she is this intrepid spirit, she was an adventurer and did a lot of mountain climbing and skiing in New Zealand that became part of a family tradition but like a lot of Kiwis, and to all my family that are in that part of the world, they have this wonderful elegance to enjoy life, to live life in and not worry about sort of the little things and to clear things through, and an incredible sense of humor.

So I think as we have gotten into 2020 and you know, not only the loss of her but sort of the other challenge you’re facing so does this disposition, right? The sort of enjoy the journey you are on rather than you know, regrets or worries or whatever challenge you’re facing, just overcome it.

She is a tough cookie, so she’s been my beacon throughout this year.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about some of your favorite books, what are you reading now and what are your some of your all-time favorites?

WELLING: Yes, I think, you know, I’m a huge, I was a huge fan of the Gladwell books, you know, Malcolm Gladwell is of course there’s sort of a lesser known for folks that like those that I’ve reread this year because I enjoyed it so much called “The Talent Code” and “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle.

So a couple of great books that build on some of the principles the Gladwell talks about, so the talent code short version, everybody knows the 10,000 hours Gladwell talks about, you know, takes that a couple steps further and talked about actually how those 10,000 hours really should work and how the brain works when it’s learning. It’s not just the hours, it is actually the kind of practice, so purposeful practice and a key part of practice is actually making mistakes.

So we learn more when we’re making mistakes, the way the brain actually works to build learn so it’s really important principle to hold when you’re trying to build a growing enterprise or just navigating life, it is not about being perfect, it is actually about the experimenting and learning from those experiments about what worked and what didn’t.

The Culture Code builds that into the power of small teams and how teams in general should operate, some of the key principles about keeping it very flat, about creating safety and vulnerability and honesty in that environment, so a lot of great vignettes throughout so highly recommend both of those and they are good rereads in the environment we are in.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting, I’m in the middle of a recent Gladwell book called “Talking to Strangers” which really makes sense in this period of political discord, I’m finding it quite intriguing, everything he writes is always a fascinating narrative, he tells really interesting stories.

What sort of advice would you give to a recent college grad who was interested in a career in financial services?

WELLING: Yes, I think there is — the general advice I would give and then specific to this industry, it definitely applies is join an industry that is growing and interesting to you, join a company that’s making a dent and growing as well. Worry a little bit less about the position, right? The specific role, right? So I had the fortune to join a great industry, to join great companies that were in those industry, all those things created opportunities for me well beyond the first job that I got as part of those organizations.

So a simplified version of all that is growth is really important, so a lot of great very talented millennials that work for us, the best thing that I can do for them is to have an enterprise that is growing and gives them opportunities to jump around in a ladder or two maybe before they think they’re ready, right?

So those are — that’s really, really critical, I think this profession is changing so this profession has become more about client care and that bedside manner if you will of working with client than it has become about the math, right?

So I think the financial services industry, the urgency, t this is really ultimately about caring for clients and helping people and that’s where the industry is going, that’s where professionals are going. The e math is still critically important but the math can be done by machines, the math can be done by focus groups of people whether that is on our investment team or accounting team and (inaudible) but I think that’s where the industry is changing and I think in a very, very positive way.

RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what you know about the world of investing today that you wish you knew 25 years or so ago when you were first getting started?

WELLING: Well, I think it’s just that, just open up the account and get started, right? I think as an industry we — there is complexity but you sometimes wonder whether it created complexity or whether the complexity is regional (ph) and they are — right, I can member sitting with my dad once I had some means and you know, had a couple good summer jobs painting houses and had some for college kids and good income for them and like what should I do with this?

And I can remember it feeling very complicated and intimidating and fortunately, you know, pushed all the papers aside all the different fund choices aside and he said t let’s just do this, right? Let us just open the account and let us make us one investment and we will see how it goes, I think just get started, it is not as scary as you think it is and there’s no substitute for — best investment strategy is start early and have patience, right?

So I think that’s really key and I think all of us to take part in, right? The complexity that surrounds this industry, how do we simplify it and get our clients and others to make some very fundamental basic decisions that are to be really important for the long-term?

RITHOLTZ: Fascinating stuff. Dave, thank you for being so generous with your time. That was Dave Welling, he is the CEO of Mercer Advisors, a firm that runs about $21 billion in assets.

If you enjoy this conversation, well be sure and check out any of the previous 375 or so we’ve had over the past six years, you can find that at iTunes, Spotify, where ever you get your podcast fix satisfied.

We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at MIBPodcast at Bloomberg.net, give us a review on Apple iTunes, you can sign up for my daily reading list at Ritholz.com, check out my weekly column on Bloomberg.com/opinion, follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put these conversations together each week. Maruful is my audio engineer, Michael Boyle is my producer, Michael Batnick is my head of research, Atika Valbrun is our project manager.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

 

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