Democratizing wealth management with Rory Henry and Rob Santos from Arrowroot Family Office
Rob Santos and Rory Henry from Arrowroot Family Office want to democratize wealth management beyond ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
They also run AFO Wealth Management Forward, a partnership program that helps accountants integrate wealth management into their advisory services.
Since accountants already have conversations with their clients about their money, wealth management is often a natural next level of service.
Are accountants the best suited to manage their clients’ wealth?
Rory Henry and Rob Santos of Arrowroot Family Office and AFO Wealth Management Forward are testing that idea. They spotted a hole in the advisory market that accountants could easily fill.
“When I was speaking with Rob and understanding more of the family office model, I asked the question, ‘Why don't CPAs and wealth managers work together? Why are they working in silos?’” Rory says. “I saw a pain point. This is a great opportunity for accountants out there to really diversify their business, provide more value to clients, and work holistically and proactively to provide better advice.”
Family offices provide a broad spectrum of wealth management tools to ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Wanting to make that model accessible to people of any net worth, Rob and Rory turned to enterprise software to democratize the previously inaccessible product. And they think accountants are the right candidates to handle the business.
Accountants are already fielding questions from clients about what to do with excess cash. Rather than outsourcing it, Rob and Rory want to give accountants the tools to handle those discussions in-house as part of their advisory services.
Rory and Rob join Karbon Co-Founder and host Stuart McLeod on episode 67 of the Accounting Leaders Podcast. They discuss what it means to have a family office in a technological age and how accountants can get comfortable bringing wealth management into their advisory services. Plus, they detail how to plan for succession when technology could lighten the load.
Knowing what you do well
Rory and Rob had big ambitions when they first tried using enterprise software to solve accounting and wealth management problems. But the experience quickly humbled them.
Rory tried to develop a product similar to Karbon in 2013. But seeing how much investment capital a software company could eat up in the blink of an eye put a stop to his attempt.
“When we started in 2013, we saw the opportunity to develop our own stuff, because there were voids in the market,” Rob says. “We started toying with some of these technologies. What we quickly learned is what we're good at and what we're not. We are not software developers.”
Rather than reinvent the wheel, they’ve had more success seeking out partnerships with software companies. They pulled together existing solutions to create a product that would give clients exactly what they need.
All in the family
A convergence of events led Rob and Rory to focus on democratizing wealth management.
Rob worked at JP Morgan in 2008, a notoriously tumultuous time for the company. Aside from dealing with the fallout of the financial crisis, he became frustrated trying to convince his older colleagues to adopt technology. Much to Rob’s dismay, the company continually paid multiple analysts to do the work that software could do at a much lower cost.
When Rob and Rory came together at Arrowroot, democratizing wealth management was a priority.
“The vision behind Arrowroot was to create a firm leveraging the power of enterprise software. I didn't like the taste of, ‘We only deal with people with $10 million or $20 million net worth',” Rob explains on the podcast. “We could provide [wealth management] services with enterprise software to people regardless of their net worth.”
Operating a family office means a couple of things for Rory and Rob. The first is that their own capital and the capital of their friends and family are at stake in the fund. In other words, they have skin in the game.
The second is bringing a wider array of services to each individual. That’s where the network of software solutions becomes key.
“In today's technological age, everybody should be able to have a unique, customizable, personalized financial advice experience.”
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The term ‘advisory’ often gets thrown around in accounting. Rory and Rob want it to actually mean something valuable, both to accountants and their clients.
They often meet pushback from the accounting community when it comes to adding wealth management to their menu. Rob and Rory have a few ideas as to why that is.
One idea is that accountants tend to do the majority of their work in one area or another, whether that’s compliance, advisory, or otherwise. Like much advisory work, adding wealth management is a more efficient use of an accountant’s time. The billing is more advantageous and accountants can worry less about lower-billing work.
The main opportunity that Rob and Rory see for accountants in taking on wealth management is getting ahead of technology. As bookkeeping and other accounting functions become more automated, it’s good to have more human-driven offerings to stay successful.
When looking into the future, it’s important to have backup plans. AFO Wealth Management Forward gives accountants the opportunity to take a natural step forward while building out a plan for what’s to come.
“What's the future for your firm? Do you want to sell it? Do you want to give it to one of your children? Do you have a partner you want to pass it on to? If you don't do something [differently], there is a very high likelihood that's not going to be worth really anything in 10 years,” Rob explains.
This concept is relatively new, but Rob and Rory look forward to converting more accountants into wealth management experts. By adding a new line of business, accountants can pad their own pockets and help their clients make smarter money moves.
Rory sums it up nicely: “This integrated world is really the future of advisory, making sure that you cover all bases on both the business side as well as a personal side.”