Tony Robbins joins advisory firm as chief of investor psychology

In his new role, Mr. Robbins will be working with his long-time financial adviser Ajay Gupta

Mar 30, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

By Christine Idzelis

Tony Robbins' mission to empower investors has taken a new step forward.

He's taken on the newly created role of chief of investor psychology at wealth manager Creative Planning, helping to train advisers on how clients' emotional needs may impact their approach to investing. He's also seeking to educate the public on financial planning to help them avoid excessive fees and conflicted investment advice.

The idea is to improve services for Creative Planning's multi-millionaires, while expanding the firm's reach to those with much smaller fortunes: individuals who have $50,000 or more to invest. His popularity as a speaker and author of “Money: Master the Game,” which Mr. Robbins has just updated for 2016, carries weight in attracting new business and engaging ordinary investors.

On Tuesday morning alone, Mr. Robbins helped generate about 700 emails from prospective clients after the paperback version of his book debuted, according to Peter Mallouk, Creative Planning's president and chief investment officer. The latest version of the book includes a chapter that highlights Creative Planning.

“I want to be a voice for the individual,” Mr. Robbins said of his new role. The problem, he said, is that many are in the dark about what fees they pay for financial advice and whether their advisers are required to act in their best interests.

He said he wants to encourage investors to seek out sophisticated, registered investment advisers, or RIAs, for help with their financial planning. He's also warning investors about so-called “dually registered” advisers who wear “two hats” as a broker under the watch of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., and as an RIA overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

RIAs are fiduciaries and as such must act in the best interest of their clients. Brokers are only required to do what's “suitable” for their clients and may be incentivized to push their own firm's proprietary products because of the commissions they receive for selling them.

There are some “great brokers out there” who want to do right by their clients, but their brokerage firms may limit their ability to offer investment options that would best serve them, said Mr. Robbins.

In his new role, Mr. Robbins will be working with his long-time financial adviser, Ajay Gupta, who was a broker at UBS Group AG before creating his own firm, Gupta Wealth Management, in 2013. Creative Planning merged this month with Gupta Wealth, increasing its assets by about $1 billion to $18 billion, while bringing Mr. Gupta on board as chief investment strategist, Mr. Mallouk said.

Understanding a person's “nature” is important to keeping them happy as clients, according to Mr. Robbins, who looks to identify which “human needs” tend to govern their emotional reactions and inform their decisions for planning.

Some individuals might emphasize “certainty,” or conversely, others may find ease in “uncertainty” and the variety it brings, he said. In another example, he said people who are motivated by “contribution” may be looking for guidance on charitable giving.

Mr. Robbins said it's not his intention to be a spokesman for the RIA industry, but over the past couple decades he's learned a lot about finance and risk from his billionaire clients, including hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, all leading him to ask, “Can the average person really win?”

No doubt markets are complex and most investors need the help of experts to guide them into retirement. Still, financial education is important and Mr. Robbins believes he can help empower ordinary investors.

“You gotta be willing to be part of your own rescue,” he said.

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