Welcome to Financial Advisor IQ

Tony Robbins' New RIA Gig Comes on Heels of Two Side Deals

By Murray Coleman April 8, 2016

Motivational speaker and best-selling author Tony Robbins doesn’t have any formal training as a financial advisor. He also doesn’t hold any professional certifications authorizing him to officially trade on client accounts or act as a broker. So what’s the 56-year-old entrepreneur possibly going to do in his new role as chief of investor psychology at Leawood, Kans.-based Creative Planning?

“I certainly wasn’t looking for another job – I manage 12 companies that do $5 billion in sales,” Robbins tells FA-IQ. “But this opportunity came up and it seemed perfectly suited to my calling to help people understand what it takes to protect wealth and gain true financial freedom.”

Bringing aboard Robbins comes on the heels of a merger between Creative Planning, which manages about $18 billion, and Gupta Wealth Management.

The indie RIA’s former head, Ajay Gupta, says he finalized the agreement last week after bringing into the discussion his longtime client, Robbins.

Creative Planning is a 2015 member of the FT 300 list of elite RIAs.

"Besides becoming a great friend, Tony has really helped me over the years to realize both my biggest flaws and greatest strengths as a businessman,” says Gupta. "In this case, my discussions with Tony led me to conclude that a merger would allow me to focus more on what I enjoy most – working with clients."

The two started working together almost a decade ago while the FA was still at UBS in San Diego. In 2013, Gupta left to form his own RIA. The firm managed more than $1 billion at the time of its merger with Creative Planning, says Gupta.

Robbins was reportedly set to partner with Gupta in another wealth management venture in 2014 that included HighTower CEO Elliot Weissbluth.

But Robbins wound up backing out of that partnership, Stronghold Financial. According to a report by InvestmentNews last year, the firm “found itself at the center of controversy” due to “its ties to self-help guru Tony Robbins.”

The prospect of someone without financial advice credentials becoming a direct partner and making money off a fiduciary-bound RIA drew heavy criticism from some quarters, according to various news reports at the time.

The online link to Stronghold Financial’s home page now leads to a site carrying the Creative Planning brand and featuring its Portfolio Checkup robo tool.

Tony Robbins (Getty)

Peter Mallouk, Creative Planning’s president, confirmed to FA-IQ that Stronghold Financial is now part of his company.

The Creative Planning executive also relates that no decision has been made on how Portfolio Checkup or Stronghold Financial will be folded into its new parent’s existing lineup.

“Mainly, we wanted to partner with Ajay,” says Mallouk. “Stronghold Financial is a separate deal that we see as potentially opening some new doors for us down-the-line in both the robo and wealth management space.”

Mallouk adds that he remains an investor in startup Trizic. The San Francisco-based digital advisory firm is aiming to complement advisors’ investment management process with its cloud-based software, according to the firm’s website.

Mallouk says Robbins wound up pitching him the idea of getting involved with Creative Planning strictly on a part-time basis. But managers at the firm note that they hardly consider such responsibilities as fluff.

“It’s going to be an extremely important role – we’re giving him a lot of freedom to reach out to our clients and advisors,” says Gupta, Creative Planning’s new chief investment strategist.

Robbins will serve as the company’s first outside director on its six-member board. That means he’s being given a “seat at the table” to actively participate and help influence decisions shaping the firm’s long-term growth, says Mallouk.

“Bringing in Tony as an independent director is an important step for our board and something we plan to do more of in the future,” he adds.

Robbins has already started working with Creative Planning’s clients and advisors. Two weeks ago he held an event in Palm Beach, Fla. That came after top advisors and staffers were flown to the Kansas City area for an introductory meeting at the company’s headquarters.

In the works are upcoming special Creative Planning-sponsored presentations for prospects, clients and advisors in Dallas as well as San Francisco.

“I’m passionate about the importance of this industry serving as true fiduciaries for investors,” says Robbins.

“I’m passionate about the importance of this industry serving as true fiduciaries for investors.”
Tony Robbins

The news of Robbins’ appointment has already garnered a lot of emails and phone calls by prospective clients, say Creative Planning officials.

“Bringing in-house such a well-known advocate for strong fiduciary standards is a great way to help reach a large number of investors who still don’t know much about our industry,” says Gupta. “We certainly don’t see the public’s thirst for more education about best practices in wealth management as fading any time soon.”