Ryan Smithage 36

President and chief compliance officer, Diversify Inc. and DFPG Investments Inc.

I am an Entrepreneur

40 Under 40
40 Under 40

I am a Leader

40 Under 40
Leaders

I am a Trailblazer

Trail Blazers

I am an Entrepreneur

40 Under 40
Entrepreneurs

I am a Visionary

40 Under 40
Visionaries

I am an Idealist

40 Under 40
Idealists

Meet the Leaders

Whether in their own firms or in their communities, these young people are leading the charge toward innovation in financial planning, bringing new opportunities to advisers and clients alike. Here, they share the best leadership advice they’ve received in their careers.

Meet the Trailblazers

This group doesn’t subscribe to groupthink. They are spearheading new ways of practicing and delivering financial advice — in some cases reaching populations previously considered unprofitable to serve. We ask them about the most unique and unusual ideas they’ve had.

Meet the Entrepreneurs

In addition to helping clients reach their financial goals, some in the advice industry face the challenge of running a business or a team. Others have started companies to support this pursuit. These young people are flourishing amid the balancing act — and some got an early start.

Meet the Visionaries

It’s not about what is, but what will be — and what can be — the future of the financial planning industry for this group of forward-looking advisers, educators and executives. Their insights pull the rest of the profession into the next stratum.

Meet the Idealists

Life experiences shape our ideals, especially for these young professionals who see challenges in the advice industry and the world — and set out to meet them. They also have words of wisdom for the next generation.

About Ryan

When Ryan Smith's former broker-dealer closed in 2011, he and his two partners, who already ran their own registered investment adviser, decided to do something audacious. They launched a broker-dealer, DFPG Investments Inc.

Mr. Smith's mission was to create first-class due diligence for the plethora of nontraded real estate investment trusts and real estate private placements beginning to swamp the broker-dealer landscape.

With that laudatory goal, DFPG opened as a record number of small and midsize broker-dealers were closing. Thin margins, exacerbated by record low interest rates, had erased once-rich spreads on margin accounts and money market funds.

Executives with small broker-dealers such as DFPG (which had only $6.6 million in revenue in 2013) routinely grumble about the expense of performing their own due diligence on nontraded REITs and private placements. They may turn instead to third-party due diligence firms, whose work sometimes is paid for by the REIT or private placement sponsor.

Not so for DFPG. "We are very selective with the sponsors we work with, and we're known for this," Mr. Smith said. "We have as good a due diligence as anyone. Reps come to us and ask [to sell] certain REITs and private placements, and they're shocked when we tell them why they can't sell them."

A significant part of building DFPG Investments, along with Diversify Wealth Management, an RIA, has been expanding its internal due diligence team.

"Due diligence is a must for us," he said.

Bruce Kelly

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Fast Facts

  • Loves to golf
  • Is an identical twin
  • Spent two years in Madagascar on his Mormon mission