Heard of Chalice? It's being called Amazon Prime for financial advisers

'We're trying to build an online digital marketplace,' says founder Keith Gregg

Jun 1, 2018 @ 1:27 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

Keith Gregg has rolled up his sleeves to dig himself into his latest venture, Chalice Wealth Partners, an enterprise he is touting as Amazon Prime for financial advisers.

The "member benefit organization" is designed to "connect all the products and services to help advisers run their businesses," he said. "The breakaways and independents really are small business owners, and they need this."

Once it's fully built out sometime later this year, the Chalice offering promises access to alternative investments, a turnkey asset management platform, investment banking, retirement solutions, membership equity and various business services, including human resources, IT, payroll support and group health insurance.

Mr. Gregg and his co-founder Anthony Nanula plan to offer advisers access to all of that for $249.99 per month.

"We're trying to build an online digital marketplace," Mr. Gregg said. "Think of the Apple business model and ecosystem."

Mr. Gregg, who brings a long list of executive-level experience that includes stints at Capital Guardian Securities, First Allied Securities and Wachovia Securities Financial Network, launched Chalice via the March 2017 acquisition of Niagara International Capital, a family office broker-dealer owned by Mr. Nanula's family.

While Mr. Gregg has a reputation for building and expanding enterprises, not everything he touches turns to gold, which became evident with the February 2016 implosion of the Aequitas Capital alternative investments platform.

Mr. Gregg, who helped expand Aequitas into an alternative investments platform for advisers in 2014, said he was gone by the time management "got wrapped around the axle" selling unregistered, high-yielding debt instruments.

Pieces of the Chalice enterprise have continued to come together, including a portal to Vestwell, a platform that helps advisers manage corporate retirement accounts that was founded by Aaron Schumm.

"Chalice is creating the country club model, where you have a membership," Mr. Schumm said. "They have created a membership marketplace for financial advisers to gain access to a platform that will have all the components they would need to best run their business."

With the full fintech membership experience still in beta mode for at least the next few months, Chalice is essentially operating a broker-dealer with a corporate RIA to lure breakaway brokers and independents looking for a turnkey solution.

Mr. Gregg said he has 14 employees based in the San Diego home office and so far has recruited 91 advisers and more than $900 million.

Revenues for 2017 totaled $6.5 million, and he expects to double that this year.

Development of the Chalice enterprise is being at least partially financed through the issuance of $4.6 million worth of Series A funds.

Morris Nutt, founder of his own $200 million advisory business, signed on to the Chalice broker-dealer last fall, but is still operating under the Raymond James corporate RIA.

"I have the ability to eventually be completely with Chalice," he said. "They offer adviser loans, leads, group health insurance and investment banking services."

Michael Kitces, a partner and director of wealth management at Pinnacle Advisory Group and co-founder of the XY Planning Network, gives Chalice credit for trying to provide independent advisers with the kind of infrastructure and support that previously had been found only at the largest broker-dealer firms.

"At a minimum, it's a notable shift in the positioning of a broker-dealer as being a 'fintech network' first and foremost," he said.

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