Ritholtz hires data analytics specialist in latest media-focused addition

Popular blogger Nick Maggiulli to join firm and cultivate intelligence out of data

Jun 15, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Ritholtz Wealth Management added more talent to its team on Friday with the hiring of Nick Maggiulli, a data analytics specialist who runs the popular "Of Dollars and Data" personal finance blog.

Mr. Maggiulli will become analytics manager and will spend his time poring through the data Ritholtz Wealth Management collects on clients and prospects to identify trends and ways to improve the client experience.

For example, Mr. Maggiulli will look for similarities among clients who are logging in to check their accounts the most, or what common traits the firm's most satisfied clients share. He also will be working on quantifying exactly which of the firm's many media outlets are working to drive new clients.

"I'm going to be on the pulse of this financial media machine," Mr. Maggiulli said. "For me, I'm super excited to see what comes out of it."

Before joining Ritholtz, Mr. Maggiulli worked in litigation consulting, where he helped law firms bolster their arguments with data. His passion, however, was in personal finance, and he began his blog in January 2017 to write about the issues he cared most about.

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Ritholtz CEO Josh Brown said he began reading the blog a little over a year ago and was an immediate fan.

"It felt like he was coming from this really pure place," Mr. Brown told InvestmentNews. "He's not, like, a trader; just a guy passionate about investing and personal finance."

After meeting Mr. Maggiulli at Ritholtz's Evidence Based Investing Conference, Mr. Brown realized the potential for bringing in a full-time data specialist.

"We generate a ton of data because of our presence online and because of how rapidly we're growing. We really don't have somebody that knows what to do with it all," Mr Brown said.

Though he has a ton of ideas for how Mr. Maggiulli can help, Mr. Brown wants him to prioritize improving the client experience at Ritholtz.

"Everyone who becomes a client comes to us. Who are these people, what do they have in common, and how can we find more of them?" Mr. Brown asked.

The addition of Mr. Maggiulli extends Ritholtz Wealth Management's track record of recruiting talent with a well-known media presence. On June 4, the firm hired Blair duQuesnay, the former chief investment officer of ThirtyNorth Investments and well-known finance "Twitter personality".

In 2015, the group added Ben Carlson, who runs the A Wealth of Common Sense blog, as director of institutional asset management.

Then there are the company's founders. Director of research Michael Batnick maintains his The Irrelevant Investor blog, and chairman and chief investment officer Barry Ritholtz pens columns for Bloomberg and hosts regular podcasts. Mr. Brown is a frequent guest on CNBC and has more than 1 million Twitter followers.

Ms. duQuesnay — who joins Ritholtz as a client-facing financial planner and member of firm's investment committee — said the firm represents "a new media strategy for building an RIA," and said there are many benefits compared to traditional recruiting.

"The biggest one is clients come to us and they already know what we do, what we don't do, what our investment philosophy is and what our values are, and they already decided that they agree with those things," she said.

Following the lead of New York hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan, every member of the Ritholtz is at once a member of the team and a distinct individual. Everyone maintains their own blog and idiosyncratic social media persona.

"Each individual brings a unique skill set," Ms. duQuesnay said. "Somehow when we all come together, it's a beautiful thing."

Bill Winterberg, the founder and president of consulting firm FPPad, said this is what makes Ritholtz's approach so effective. He contrasts Ritholtz's strategy with RIAs like Fisher Investments, United Capital and the Carson Group, where messaging is presented as one person's voice.

"[Mr. Ritholtz and Mr. Brown] realize that they are investing in and hiring resources that help with increasing the attention and engagement of investors," Mr. Winterberg said. By letting everyone maintain their own voice, Mr. Winter believes the firm avoids the corporate spin that plagues other RIA's attempts at social media.

The strategy is translating into assets. In just five years, the firm has attracted more than $700 million in client assets under management, according to its most-recently filed form ADV. All of that growth is organic, and Mr. Brown believes it's because the firm hires people like Ms. duQuesnay and Mr. Maggiulli who fit the culture, not because they bring along a big book of business.

"Everyone who has come to the firm has come in because they are fans of us," Mr. Brown said. "We are building a firm around the message and what we are doing for clients. It's so much better than people we just wrote checks to."

"When you write a check, it's just mercenaries. We really are a culture."

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