Will Bressman is the CEO of RIA in a Box, a leading provider of compliance and operations solutions for RIAs and investment advisors. RIA in a Box products are built by RIA advisors and developers and backed by a team of regulatory experts. Will graduated with a degree in History from Harvard University and completed his Master of Business Administration degree at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Before joining RIA in a Box in 2011, Will served in the digital media industry, working with Good Morning America and LXTV.
Will joins me today to discuss the new SEC regulations on marketing, testimonials, and endorsements. He discusses how the new rules can impact financial advisors and explains what advisors can do to remain compliant. He shares his philosophy on running the operational aspects of a business and explains why he is passionate about business operations. Will also highlights the importance of proactively strengthening an RIA firm’s cybersecurity foundation and underscores the value of making a commitment to learning.
“Our goal is to ensure that advisors get the everyday operational tools they need to focus on what matters most: the clients and the market.” - Will Bressman
This week on The Model FA Podcast:
● Will’s career path: from working for Good Morning America, to getting into business school, to RIA in a Box
● The ideation stage of RIA in a Box
● The services RIA in a Box offers and how they have evolved over the years
● The lessons RIA in a Box learned as their range of products and services transformed
● New SEC regulations on client testimonials and how they can impact financial advisors
● How financial advisors can ensure their compliance with the new SEC rules on testimonials and endorsements
● What groupthink is and how positive testimonials can encourage prospects to work with a financial advisor
● Proactively empowering clients to stay ahead with cybersecurity issues
● What makes an effective cybersecurity tool and why training people is the best way to strengthen a firm’s cybersecurity
● How often cybersecurity breaches happen in independent wealth management and financial advisory firms
● Why RIAs need to cultivate great email and IT hygiene
● Disrupting the future by acknowledging the imperfection of the present
● Book: But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman
● Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Our Favorite Quotes:
● “You need to guide people through the process. Be extremely clear and communicative about not just where resources are, but how and when to use them.” - David DeCelle
● “Peoples’ decisions and choices are influenced by those around them. A prospect on the fence of working with you happens to see positive testimonials ― that might be the thing to make them say yes.” - David DeCelle
● “If you want to build a great product, you need to ensure you know how to translate that to clients and how they can get a lot of value out of it.” - Will Bressman
Connect with Will Bressman:
About the Model FA Podcast
The Model FA podcast is a show for fiduciary financial advisors. In each episode, our host David DeCelle sits down with industry experts, strategic thinkers, and advisors to explore what it takes to build a successful practice — and have an abundant life in the process. We believe in continuous learning, tactical advice, and strategies that work — no “gotchas” or BS. Join us to hear stories from successful financial advisors, get actionable ideas from experts, and re-discover your drive to build the practice of your dreams.
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President of Model FA, David DeCelle
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Will Bressman 00:05
He believes that an effective cybersecurity tool sort of does a few things. The first is that despite obviously the deep sophistication, unfortunately, of a lot of the bad actors, and it's a pretty world, like a lot of the things happen when people just make a mistake. And so the best way to avoid making a mistake is to train people and give them sort of tools to recognize when phishing attempts is occurring, or create policies and procedures so that you're doing, you know, multi factor authentication or you're making a phone call to verify things before you wire out money. So you know, in some regard, like having a consistent plan for how you train the people at your firm that are coming into contact with, you know, outside world through email communication, or through potentially dealing with moving funds like that is a big, big important part of it, because you know, that won't be a failsafe, but if you can sort of create a repeatable and high quality process to train everyone. That's super valuable.
David DeCelle 01:00
Welcome model FAA, I am very grateful for your time and attention on this episode. We are joined today by wil Bregman, who is the CEO of RI a in a box. All right in the box is a leading SaaS provider, with compliance and operations solutions for all IRAs. their product is built by leading product managers and developers, and backed by a team of regulatory experts will currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. And today, we're going to be learning a little bit more about not just wills backstory, but the backstory of Ra and the box and how this came to fruition. And from there, the two topics that we're going to be discussing is the new marketing rule with the SEC as it relates to testimonials that you can get from clients and share on your social a website and things like that. And we had talked about that conversation and that topic and a prior episode with Brian Thorpe. So if you haven't listened to that episode, yet, it may be nice to listen to both this one and that one, so you get the full scope of, you know, what this rule is all about, and how it could have a positive impact on your business from everyone transition over to some operational components of the business and Will's philosophy on that. But for now, Well, welcome to the show. Thank you very much excited to be here. Awesome. So tell us a little bit about you know, your personal background. So, you know, were you fresh out of college and you got, you know, right into, you know, Ra in a box, or what was kind of that first step, you know, once you got out of the schooling phase of your life.
Will Bressman 02:38
So I actually began my earlier career in unrelated industries I had worked in actually my first job was at the Morning America, and then I worked in digital media. And then I went to business school, right around the time of the financial crisis. And along with a classmate of mine, who remained my partner today, gj King, we sort of were interested in how we could help sort of build solutions that came out of that time, we graduated in 2010. And we're very eager to sort of explore, again, some of that just tremendous change that occurred and a lot of the fragmentation and independence that was emerging in financial services industry. So, you know, we sort of my second chance to go into sort of entrepreneurship after business school was motivated a lot by the time and the things that were happening in the broader financial services world. And I'm kind of just felt excited and passionate about trying to build a solution to sort of, you know, again, help support a lot of the change that was occurring at that time.
David DeCelle 03:30
Love it. Now, when you I guess first came up, or I guess, how did you first come up with the idea of RI a, and the box? Like, was the setting, you know, sort of like a back of the napkin approach at a bar after a few drinks? Was it you know, in some sort of brainstorming session? Like how did this actually, you know, come about in its initial stages of ideation?
Will Bressman 03:53
Sure. So most of my back of the napkin ideas have actually been pretty bad. So that wasn't the approach here. I actually did not found the company myself, gj and I actually sort of acquired it from the original founder, a guy named Zack chronic, who had built the first version of it that was really focused on the initial registration of Ra firms. And you know, he deserves a credit for getting it off the ground, he had sort of built it from that phase. And when we came on board, there was a sort of stable and distinct client base of people, again, sort of in that registration process, and some nascent ongoing services. And then our idea was to sort of continue to build upon that by building out in general, just sort of high value ongoing services, and then over time, a software solution. So, you know, again, coming back to my first thing, it was motivated less by the brilliance of some idea I had, which I think is better for everyone, and much more that it was a time where it seemed like there was just going to be more and more need for services like this one. And we were fortunate enough to find someone who had done an amazing job sort of building the business to where it was and was looking to transition and have new leadership and sort of bring some new ideas to the next phase and that's where we got involved. Cool.
David DeCelle 04:57
So alluding to the Name of the firm or beyond that. So our I am box, first of all, I just think is a cool name. I guess my question is, what's in the box? What do you guys do?
Will Bressman 05:10
So try to have a bigger and bigger box over time. So the literal, again, starting point of that name was to just help someone get set up with their own IRA firm and be approved at the state of the SEC. So that meant getting the initial regulatory documents like the form a dv and some other supplementary documents and give someone just this sort of out of the box starting point for, you know, getting approved and being able to start their business, but we've been focused on over the years is kind of how do you put more into that box? And what else can you provide to, you know, you alluded to this earlier, from an operational perspective, kind of help advisors have more and more tools to power, what sort of the passion of what they do dealing with clients and, and dealing with the market. So today, what the box includes is still those regulatory sort of filing document capabilities, some tools for the CTO to manage ongoing compliance, employee supervision, and attestations. So you know, things like reading the code of ethics and gifts and entertainment, employee trade monitoring, which is a big thing for people who balance obviously trading on behalf of their clients, along with their own personal trading, and then cybersecurity vendor due diligence and increasing sort of IT services that can offer more and more, again, for operational support. So we're getting a bigger box, we want to keep making that box bigger. But at the end of the day, the goal is to really sort of make sure that what we're doing is giving advisors a lot of the essentially sort of day to day operational tools they need in order to, again, focus on the things that are most important to them, that the clients and the markets. Cool. So helping them leverage some of those things with tech tools and systems and processes to, you know, essentially free up some time to actually grow the business as opposed to,
David DeCelle 06:48
you know, being stuck in the weeds, so to speak, is what I'm hearing, we are getting stuck in the weeds, but we don't want to be advisors. Cool. Speaking of being stuck in the weeds, as you think back. So you've been with ra in a box? You mentioned you graduated in 2010. of business school, if I remember correctly, so have you been with the company for 11 years? or How long have you been with them? I got involved, the entity has 11. So basically, that 10 years. Cool. So in terms of getting stuck in the weeds, I know this has happened with us at model FA where, you know, we think we have a really good idea. And you know, we go and run with it, we spend, you know, time and resources, developing the additional, you know, product or service. And then you know, perhaps it's not as well received, as we had expected. So, you know, we go back to the drawing board and reconfigure their scrap it all together. And, you know, do a better job of listening to the marketplace and listening to our clients as to what exactly it is, you know, they're looking for. So I guess over your decade long journey with what you're doing, has there ever been a point in time where I wouldn't necessarily call it a failure? Because if you learn from it, then it was, you know, a lesson as opposed to a failure. But have you ever thought that a particular path was the path to go and come to find out? That wasn't? Or what were some of the kind of the speed bumps along the way? Yeah,
Will Bressman 08:12
wow, a few bumps along the way. I think there's one thing I've learned. Again, I don't think that we do everything perfectly. And it always will, I'd say one that really jumps out to us is, you know, as mentioned before, that sort of evolution of what our product offering was, and particularly around software component of what we were developing, and again, sort of bringing the best case scenario, our expertise to our regulatory experts with some great products. And when we first built it, we were really pumped and proud of everyone. And it was real, unbelievable team contribution. And sincerely, I mean, I know everyone says that, but like we really did a great job of translating the expertise into a product that everyone was very excited about. And we just put it out there. And we were feeling really great. And everyone was really pumped about it. And you know, we quickly realized that, if you build it, they will come online is not really true. And I think we what we experienced more than anything was that when we sort of just gave it away to our existing clients at the time that hadn't had a software experience, you know, some of them thought it was cool. Some of them didn't, some of them didn't care. And we learned that sort of the best way to make any of our tools successful was obviously building them as strongly as we can. But then spending time communicating training, helping our clients get value from them engaged from them. And it led to us building sort of a full onboarding team, because we naively thought that if you just like, put it out there, if you will figure it out and love it. And that would be good. But we realized, like, it's actually great to give clients the chance to ask questions, to do training to have experts on our team be able to like walk you through it. And that was a wonderful lesson for us because I think it's helped us with a lot of other subsequent releases that obviously you want to build a great product. Obviously, you want to have a great expertise, but you also need to make sure that you can really help translate that to clients and make sure that they get a lot of value from it. Because otherwise, you know, it just sits on the shelf and no one feels great about it. Yeah,
David DeCelle 09:55
agree. We experienced that too, where you know we have our digital course You know, that we offer that has, you know, various sales and marketing relationship building components to it, we have a slew of office hours that folks can attend on a monthly basis on a variety of various topics with subject matter experts. And then we have the actual coaching portion of the relationship. And, you know, we found that, you know, we built all this stuff. And if we didn't properly onboard, someone they didn't necessarily know like, where to go, or how they use the resources. And you really need to, I don't mean this in like a negative way, but like baby people through the process and be extremely clear and over communicative as to not just where the resources are, but how and when to actually utilize them. So similar to, you know, an onboarding call that you alluded to, we have like a practice diagnostic call, where it's a combination of, you know, diving deep into their practice, and figuring out kind of their pain points and opportunities, and then starting to connect the dots for them and say, Hey, based on this, like, you're gonna want to spend time here, or you're gonna want to leverage this resource, and just hand holding them through that process, so that they can actually get the results that they're looking for, as opposed to a couple different portals, and they have no idea where to start. So we had something similar. I know
Will Bressman 11:12
I love that practice, diagnostically. I may borrow that term. I think if Go for it. I'm like, I think like, for my perspective, one of the amazing things about what both of us do is that if you do your job, well, it really helps the clients. And so I think from my perspective, again, why this was such a great lesson is that we want people to get value from what we do we want them to learn, we want them to feel as if it's a good service. And then do we get everything right always, of course not. But like if we can sort of figure out the best way to help our clients feel like this is valuable. It's totally, you know, cliche, like the win win. So I mean, it's very motivating. Because if we can get this to be something that people appreciate, you know, get value from understand how to use, as you said, connect it to the practice elements of their practice that can benefit from both sides are better off. And so I love that about what we do. And again, this was a great lesson learned the hard way that we've got to sort of help lead the horse to water on some of this stuff. Because ultimately, then in the end, both sides are better for sure. I also like the consistency in your language of you know, if
David DeCelle 12:12
you build it, they will come and realizing that that's not always the case. I remember reading an article and fa, financial advisor magazine, he did a little q&a session and shared a similar sentiment. Yeah. I mean, I guess one of the things I've learned most during this time, awesome, let's transition over to the new regulatory rule with the SEC as it relates to client testimonials. And I want you to share kind of like just what that is from a high level. And if it makes sense to dive a little bit deeper on this podcast, we will and then I'll kind of share my perspective, after you go through, like what the rule is, I'll share my perspective. And you know, how and why, you know, it's important to actually leverage this moving forward, and quite frankly, be, you know, a first mover in this space, cuz I feel like there's a lot of ambiguity out there as to like, what is allowed and what's not allowed. And not everyone's kind of jumping on this, you know, immediately and kind of seeing how it shakes out. So I guess let's just start with, like, what is the new rule?
Will Bressman 13:14
Sure. So first caveat is I'm glad you recommended listeners hear both episodes back to back, I'm sure they're gonna get a lot more out of the first one than mine. But no, I mean, I think, you know, at the highest level, this is called rule 2064 dash one. And in some ways, what's most interesting is that it used to be the advertising rule. Now, it's called the marketing rule. And, you know, there's also a related solicitation rule that is now impacted by this. And you know, again, maybe this is like, a funny, the controversial statement, like we are fans of the FCC. And we think that what they try to do is sort of navigate an interesting middle ground of evolving with the world and the times, and then obviously, still trying to hold true to sort of like the consumer protection and all the aspects that lead to some of these rules. So at the highest level, what this has done is it's sort of reflected what the new world looks like. So obviously, now, in today's world, I should say previously, doing things like posting on LinkedIn and social media were very difficult, if not outright forbidden, because the rules are written in a time where that wasn't even thought of as a way in which, you know, people would obviously get information about advisors or there'd be marketing. So now, what sort of the the, I guess, new definition says is that, you know, you basically can do most of these things. You can have sort of testimonials, you can have endorsements, it allows advisors to sort of not be as reactionary on them, and you can just sort of have policy that documents what you're doing, you have to have in your own sort of policies and procedure, you have to have ways of archiving the communication. But you know, again, like what you're sort of, I mean, I can run through the laundry list of bars sort of, not allowed to do versus allowed to do but basically, what you're not allowed to do is sort of say untrue things have information that would make it clear Think that you're sort of guaranteeing anything or that you offer them benefits that are not realistic or consistent with market expectations, again, basically, you just can't be, I think the rule has a line that says, you cannot be materially misleading. It still has the things around sort of performance results that you can't include. But again, what you are now allowed to do is allow sort of, quote, testimonials and endorsements that don't attest to sort of your performance, but more are consistent with almost anything else you see on the internet, which is like, I like this person, they're a great guy, they're a great woman, they help with our life and things like that. And again, as long as you're sort of documenting these, you're keeping proper archiving of the materials, you know, and it's not for like a cash compensation type of endorsement, then you are now allowed to do so. Yeah, I
David DeCelle 15:44
think it's interesting, because, and I'll get into, also how I can see advisors utilizing this and why it's impactful. So to your point, you know, when you're speaking with clients, I would even just make them aware and just say, hey, there's been a an update, you know, with the SEC in terms of rules and regulations around, you know, client testimonials and things along those lines. And, you know, one of the things is, you know, when you go to, you know, potentially, you know, go to a new restaurant, the first thing you do is look at the reviews, and quite often you can be swayed in either direction, based on you know, the few reviews that you do happen to read, and you can ask them, you know, I know, for me anyways, I feel like we have a great relationship. And I would love to be able to hear from you on your experience that I could potentially share across social channels and websites and email campaigns, things like that, really focusing more so based on the rule around how our relationship has made you feel and kind of the process that we went through staying away from, you know, obviously, hyper personal stuff and any performance related components to our relationship, because they don't allow that, you know, would you consider and would you be open to, you know, being one of the first people to, you know, share a testimonial, not just with me, but with our industry and just kind of ask in that sort of way with folks that you have a really good relationship with. And then I kind of alluded to it, where you can share it across, you know, social and website and things along those lines. And with it's kind of hitting on is this idea of groupthink. And I forget the book that I read that talked about this, but there was a study done where, or maybe it was even a video that I watched, where there was a study done, where they had like five people in a room. And they had four actors and one real participants. And what they did was they had all these people look at this screen that had different size lines, just like picture a vertical line. And you know, one was, you know, bigger one was smaller, you know, they're all different sizes, and they were asked to pick what line was the longest, okay, so they went through all the participants and the actual participants was at the very end. And what happened was the first four people intentionally picked the wrong line. And when it got to that last participant, they picked the right line. And then they then recycled, you know, the image and they had them pick like the smallest one, right? And they did this a series of times. And what ended up happening was this person at the end was so influenced by group think that that person started picking the wrong answer, just because everyone else picked the wrong answer, and didn't want to be the only person going against the grain, so to speak. So all that to say that people's decisions, and choices are very much influenced by those around them. So if there's a client or a prospect, I should say, who's on the fence and working with you, and then happens to see that four or five, six, you know, 10 or more other people have positive things to say. And they're highlighting the way they felt going through the process and how they feel now and the confidence that they have received as a result of working with this particular advisor in their firm. That may be the last thing that just gets them over the hump to actually say yes, but it was an interesting study. I think now, as I'm talking through, there's a Facebook video because I remember actually seeing the images. And I'm like, how can you? I was shocked at how much you could be influenced by a group when the answer was obviously wrong. I'd like to think that if I was in that setting, I wouldn't do that. But yeah,
Will Bressman 19:28
cognitive biases are you know, I've never heard of that Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast thinking slow. I mean, just like the number of experiments and ways that people's minds can sort of exhibit bias is very crazy. And I agree with you, like, we all want to believe that we wouldn't do that. But who knows? I mean, that stuff is powerful. And yes, I mean, I definitely agree with your point that obviously just giving the opportunity for advisors and clients to engage in that way and then making sure that future potential clients can, can get as somewhat of it a representative example of what experiences have worked. combated by for me, I think it benefits everyone, you're going in less blindly, you're understanding who you're dealing with a little bit more. And again, it's just reflective of the way the world is today. I mean, in every other, you can rate your doctor online. And so I do think that this sort of idea of ratings and testimonials and an online messaging for things of that nature, again, to your point, especially with the caveat that you're not talking about performance, you're not talking about, you know, compensation related topics, I do think that it's hard to sort of exist outside that realm. And hopefully, it has benefits to everyone involved,
David DeCelle 20:31
for sure. And for those of you who are listening, that would like some more details as to kind of just grazed the surface today, a few different places that I would point you. So number one that I already mentioned, our episode previous to this with Brian Thorpe goes into a decent amount of detail. And his website is wealth, tender, calm, and there's some additional information there. And then actually, if you go to ra inbox.com, slash blog, or just click on the blog tab, they publish a blog back on May 11, that talks about this rule as well. So I think it's important too, with anything new like this, you know, understand from different sources, what's going on, because there may be a different take on it, depending on who's sharing that information. So definitely, you know, consumed the blog on RA and the box's website, as well as Brian Thorpe stuff, and you should have a pretty good understanding, you know, around that rule and how to leverage it.
Will Bressman 21:23
Yeah, thank you for mentioning our blog. And I think from our perspective, like, we intend to kind of keep writing about this as more information crystallizes. And as there are getting mentioned this yourself a few moments ago, as are more sort of, like real life examples. And this becomes less theoretical, we're hoping to keep updating our content and make sure that people can get sort of like current information. So no matter when you listen to this podcast, hopefully, hopefully a lot of some good stuff for you there. Cool. Well,
David DeCelle 21:45
what would be helpful if you haven't already done this or not already, considering it is even like a checklist of like, you know, do's and don'ts? Because I mean, the rule itself is, you know, heavy to consume. So like a nice, a nice, little summary, if you guys could do that. I'm sure it would be helpful. Yeah, we're
Will Bressman 22:00
working on tools like that in our software, and definitely for the product market. But definitely, I mean, I agree, it's dense content. Awesome.
David DeCelle 22:07
So going to the second topic that we want to discuss around operations, I want to kind of keep this general to start, see where you take it. And then I'll be more specific with some follow up questions. So you had mentioned in a previous conversation, that one of the things that you enjoy talking about is just the operational component of the business, I guess, tell me more about kind of what that means to you, and why it's a topic that you enjoy discussing. auditing trust, but I think from my research, I was gonna say, operations to me, I'm like, I hate following rules. I hate following systems, but I need someone to hold me accountable to do so. So I'm not the guy for operations.
Will Bressman 22:47
Well, I mean, in some ways, that's the perfect example of why I find interesting, because I think like, you know, we have tremendous respect and admiration. And I mean, this very genuinely, for all the people that are in this industry, I think they've typically, I mean, there's big generalizations, but you're sort of independent for a reason you're doing this because you want to help your clients manage their financial futures, you like dealing with investments you'd like to them, if your clients like, that's why people do this, and they're providing a great service. And it's a great way to sort of spend your life but a lot of the people that enter this industry don't really want to, or have the aptitude for or desire to really sort of get their hands dirty on the operational aspects, a lot of people either come from larger institutions, or they, you know, again, just are motivated by something different. So, and this is what I was saying before, I mean, I've found it very rewarding to try to figure out how we can sort of just like best support that journey on essentially the operational side and or the back end, or whatever you want to call it. And obviously, starting with compliance, that was the natural jumping off point, because compliance is a topic where you know, no one, this is one of my other cliche jokes, no one dreamed about compliance as a kid, like they're not, they're not doing this to sort of figure out how to do compliance, but people take it seriously. They know it matters. They know, it's important. And we've found that one of our best ways to sort of add value to the whole advisor ecosystem is to make that as high quality as possible. We're not trying to help people, you know, cheat the SEC, we're not trying to help people skirt, the rules. We're trying to help people do what they're supposed to do, and do it in as efficient manner as possible. And when you sort of start with that mindset that we've had the company, it's allowed us to sort of look for more opportunities to kind of get in the weeds of other aspects of operations that are pretty annoying. I mean, obviously, everyone today is extremely worried about cybersecurity, for good reason. I mean, you see, you know, pipeline, hackings ransomware, every day, and it's a scary topic. And again, if you're an advisor, like how do you know how to be a leading expert in cybersecurity, it's very difficult. So we're trying to help people figure that part out now. So we have tools and resources, both from a device management perspective, from a training and sort of guidance perspective. And recently, we've added more just infrastructure for people's sort of virtual desktop environments. And again, it's the same idea like how do we sort of make things operationally efficient for advisors. But even beyond our own offerings, and I'm happy to go into more of what we do. I just think like, fundamentally, there's so much good in this industry and so much sort of area to add value to customers lives and to the advisors themselves. And it does seem that like, despite the explosion of amazing investment products, robo advisors direct indexing, you know, 1000s, of ETFs, and mutual funds, despite the explosion of amazing Client Tools, sort of like risk management, and CRM, and just many ways you can sort of better engage with your clients, there just isn't a lot that helps people do for everything else. And I think it's always as an entrepreneur, it's interesting to sort of spend time in the place where you know, there aren't great solutions. And if you can build something that's helpful, maybe it won't come automatically. But you can build something that adds a lot to the equation. And so that's why I'm passionate about it, obviously, again, I'm happy to go into any of the details of it. But you know, for me, that's a very motivating thing to sort of figure out like the place where there hasn't been a lot, how do you help and because that's a place where people need a lot of help, what's the best way for us to do it.
David DeCelle 26:02
So let's actually go down the path of cybersecurity. So I have a client who I don't know, maybe nine to 12 months ago or so. So they have a tax planning practice. And then they have a wealth management firm as well. And one serve, you know, they kind of feed each other, so to speak, in terms of clients, and they had a situation to where their systems were compromised. And I remember, you know, I wasn't able to help them as it relates to the logistics of what to do from like a compliance standpoint, but I was able to help them as it relates to how to communicate this news with clients. And then they were petrified that, you know, they were going to lose a lot of clients. And fortunately, they actually didn't lose any, because they were open and honest and transparent about what was going on talked about, they gave resources as to hey, here's how you can check if your information has been compromised. And here's the things that you should consider changing the other. Yeah, so they power them to, you know, address this, you know, to protect themselves. But how do you be proactive about this, and stay ahead of some of the cybersecurity issues, you know, in your practice,
Will Bressman 27:10
I think the experience you just described is both like pretty typical, and also seems like, you guys handled it in a great way. And I think that like the sort of topic of cybersecurity is a very interesting one, because it can mean a lot of different things like on the one hand, it's a deeply technical sort of like Pentagon level way of encrypting information. And, you know, there's that aspect of it. And then there's the complete other end of the spectrum, which is just sort of like training. And then even the point you just raised communication, and almost just like leadership and transparency. And so to us, we believe that in effective cybersecurity tool sort of does a few things. The first is that despite obviously, the deep sophistication, unfortunately, a lot of the bad actors in cybersecurity world, like a lot of the things happen when people just make a mistake. And so the best way to avoid making a mistake is to train people and give them sort of tools to recognize when phishing attempt is occurring, or create policies and procedures, so that you're doing, you know, multi factor authentication, or you're making a phone call to verify things before you wire out money. So, you know, in some regard, like having a consistent plan for how you train the people at your firm that are coming into contact with, you know, the outside world through email communication, or through, potentially dealing with moving funds, like that is a big, big, important part of it. Because you know, that won't be a failsafe, but if you can sort of create a repeatable and high quality process to train everyone, that's super valuable. The second aspect is just sort of awareness of what's going on. Because, again, if God forbid, something does happen, like you need to know quickly, and then, to your point, be able to communicate about it with ways to sort of remedy the situation or shut it down. So, you know, for us, that's things like, inventory management, and its ways of sort of monitoring the system through, you know, again, the virtual desktop solutions, because once again, if something bad does happen, you know, there's a scale of what can happen, you don't you want to be able to be quick acting to be able to shut things down. And so we've tried to make sure we have tools and resources to help people do that. And then obviously, there is the deep level of sort of security encryption that you can have you want to invest in that. Yeah, that may not be necessary for all ra firms, I don't know that they all need to be sort of at that NSA level of security in order to feel safe. I think if you really invest in sort of the training side of things, the environment monitoring, and honestly, again, having the playbook and the policies and procedures for how to communicate about it, how to remedy if things go wrong, like that, we'll sort of do most of it. And then the other interesting thing, you know, we sort of compliance company, there's the compliance aspect, which candidly is evolving on the SEC level, like there's not necessarily a set in stone requirement forever right now on what the SEC is asking for. But then there's also just the business risk and the business sort of reputational aspect. So I think at the end of the day, like you can't only sell for one you need to be aware of what is required from the SEC side of things, but you also need to be understanding that this is not just about Some auditor coming in, it's about how does your business respond in these situations? And how do your clients feel about it? And does it feel like you're creating an environment where, obviously, their money is secure and
Patrick Brewer 30:09
their communication information is secure, and that you have a plan in place, if something does unfortunately happen, hey, model essays. I know you're enjoying this conversation. But I wanted to take a quick break to talk to you about the model FA accelerator. This is a unique collaboration between us and you, where we help you build a financial advising practice that you can be proud of, we focus on the foundational concepts around how to pick a niche or a specialization, how to price your services, how to construct an offer that people are going to buy, and then how to market and sell it in a way that will get people to sign on the dotted line and become clients of your firm, all while giving you the information to scale, and set up workflows and operational processes that will allow you to reclaim your time and build a practice that doesn't run you. So if you'd like to hear more about that, go to www dot model fa.com forward slash accelerator or www dot model FA comm hover over work with us and click on accelerator and hope to see in the program,
David DeCelle 31:04
how often does this stuff actually happen? I mean, I have that one experience with one of my clients. But I would imagine that there's a number of attempts, you know, to break into the system, and they're not always successful. But is this something that advisors are dealing with, like on a daily basis on like, yearly bait? Like, how often is this stuff even happening?
Will Bressman 31:25
Yeah, I mean, again, I think there's not one answer that depends on how you would define it, I think like, you can just look at your email, I mean, you're probably all, everyone gets 50 emails a day that if you click the wrong link, start one of these bad processes. So in summary, it is happening non stop 24 seven, it's one of the biggest nuisances of having company email, I mean, our email and ourselves, we get just phishing attempts. And, again, I don't think it's particularly unique to what we're experiencing, I think every business and every individual in this country is getting that non stop. So you know, I think in some regard, that part is happening all the time. And that's where the training and sort of risk prevention comes in, when a sort of more sophisticated ransomware, or cyber attack happens, I think that's still, you know, relatively infrequent. And if you think about it, if you're one of those sort of picking away criminal organizations, like the bang for the buck is not to sort of go after a small ra firm, it's to go for the pipeline. But you know, this stuff is real. And unfortunately, for better or worse, like, you know, the bad actors often are one step ahead. So I hate to say you always have to be on guard for it, but it is happening much more often than anyone would like. And again, the end of the day, like you can avoid 99.99% of this just with good sort of email and it hygiene, but you know, it sadly year to stay, unfortunately,
David DeCelle 32:38
I think too, it would be helpful, you know, for a firm to do some sort of, you know, cybersecurity, you know, webinar or something like that to say, Hey, here's what a phishing email looks like, or here's, you know, a request that we would never ask of you. Or if there's ever an instance, where you're asking for money, we're gonna call you every single time and just kind of re instill that you're on top of it. Because I mean, typically, you're dealing with their entire life savings. So I think it's, you know, worth a couple of minutes at some point in your process to let them know, that is at least you know, top of your mind, and you're aware of it, and that what things will or will not be communicated via email, you know, compared to phone call, or what have you. So we've been into your process, I think your team will be helpful,
Will Bressman 33:24
commercial for our cyber security partner, let's get a lot of what we do. Yes, I mean, obviously, I'm biased. But I totally agree. And again, I just think that that type of stuff, while it seems somewhat insignificant compared to sort of, again, the sophisticated attacks by outsiders makes a huge difference. And again, putting even aside cyber security, I think it means something to the client relationship. If you show that you care about these things, and you're spending not even a ton of time and an hour, every few months, I'm sort of training and learning how to handle these situations. And, you know, we have phishing tests that we run quarterly for our clients where they have to identify without knowing they have to identify whether it's fishing or not, and those set of tools or resources, help train and help prepare people in these situations. And again, I agree with you, I think, like when you're managing someone's life savings, it's sort of the least you can do to help keep that safe. In addition to all the amazing work done on obviously, sort of constructing a portfolio
David DeCelle 34:13
for sure. Awesome. Well, that was helpful for me, I'm sure those of you who are listening, helpful for you as well. And I do want to transition slightly over to your favorite book. So if this is the first episode that you're listening to, one thing that I'm really trying to promote within our industry is continuous learning and not just learning within the confines of our industry, but in industry, agnostic books, or even industries that are totally unrelated because usually, there's, you know, some good nuggets in there that can be applied. And as we just kind of went through with the new sec rule, you know, testimonials and reviews have been around for a while and we're now just adopting it. So there's usually some good ideas from other industries that we could you know, then apply to what we're doing here. Just want to promote learning so well, you had mentioned that one of the favorite books that you have or one of the most recent books that you have, you know, that kind of hit home to you was, but what if we were wrong? Tell me a little bit more about why you chose that.
Will Bressman 35:14
Sure. So here's the reason book. I mean, I have my favorite High School novels that are also my favorite books. But the reason why I like this one is basically the premise of this book is the author Chuck Klosterman goes through historical examples in art in culture and literature in science and sort of freezes time at a moment, and does it in different areas, and ranging from things to you know, astronomy, to Newtonian physics to, again, the music of the 1900s. And sort of at that moment, zeroes in on what people thought was sort of right and true and incontrovertible fact, and every single example, throughout the course of the book ends up being proven incorrect. And basically, the whole idea of the book is that, you know, in the moment, we care about these things, we think they're all correct. And we've learned that everything that everyone hasn't learned before us, and, you know, again, even something as straightforward as Newtonian physics, you know, ends up being proven a little bit wrong by Einstein. And, you know, he talks about like music during the 1900s. And people say, this is the peak of music. And then 20 years later, no one likes it. And basically, this this sort of fundamental point that he's making is that maybe we should just have a little bit of humility and not always think we're exactly right at any given moment. And to me, the reason why that resonates is, you know, clearly we're living in a time where everyone is sure they're right about everything all the time. And I think it's a helpful reminder that sort of, you know, maybe there's a different point of view, or maybe someone else correct here, maybe this won't end up being the case, when we look back on it. 20 years. And I don't know, for me, personally, not to get too deep here. Like, I think one of the greatest parts of the human experience is that people are different, and they have different interests, different experiences. And yet somehow, when it comes to like, our opinions on things, we're sure we're right all the time. And I'd like the reminder that, you know, maybe we're not. And to me, that was a good message for this time. Well, it's
David DeCelle 37:03
cool to, you know, from a personal component, you know, what I'm hearing is that it causes you to kind of just stop in your tracks and be open to the idea that someone else has a different perspective. And, you know, because your perspective is shaped, you know, based on the experiences of your life, and everyone has different experiences, there's no two exact people with the exact same experiences, therefore, they may have a different point of view. And based on that, that creates their reality. And based on their reality, maybe they are right, and based on your reality, maybe you are right. But I also think from a personal perspective, you need to do a good job of like stopping and asking questions, and actually caring about what that person is saying, being an active listener. And who knows, maybe there's something that's shared that you're like, Oh, I never thought of it that way. And now, boom, you're on a different trajectory than you would have been otherwise. But even on a professional basis, I mean, I still need to consume this book, but on the surface, based on what you're saying, I think it would be a good book to read as a preliminary component to like a company retreat, or something like that, where you're trying to, you know, map out the next year, or next few years, or whatever, and just say, Hey, you know, let's read this book. First, let's understand that just because we've done it this way, for a while doesn't mean it's the best way, let's try and break this thing down and see what the next iteration is, you know, other than we have an episode that's going to be released slightly before yours, with a gentleman by the name of Ron bolus, and you know, his team, he's got 19 folks on his team, either four or five of them are client facing advisors. And then the rest, a majority of them are actually software developers, you know, for the ri, a, and content creators, and it's just a totally different approach than, you know, the typical org chart that you would see in a typical Ra. So it's just things like that, where it's like, Okay, how can we totally disrupt the future by being open to the fact that how we're doing it is not necessarily the best way, just because we've been doing it for a while, you know,
Will Bressman 39:05
yeah, I mean, I obviously completely agree with you. And I like the idea of maybe people at our company may not want to have homework. But I like the idea of having reading that from a business perspective and thinking about new ways of doing things. And you don't get to your earlier point, which also really agree with, like, if you're committed to the concept of sort of learning, embedded in that philosophy is that you don't know everything. And so to me, like it just really, it would be pretty boring if everything was set, and no one knew anything, and there was no way to change. So I think that I just feel a lot of enthusiasm for the idea of like, again, we're trying our best we're learning what we know now and then we're going to keep learning and do things differently. And again, all that's obviously very high level and cliche but but I do think if you can kind of have that mindset in the work environment and the person environment, you know, there's a lot of excitement that could happen. For sure. There's a lot of a lot of my life philosophy here. I'm not expecting I guess
David DeCelle 40:00
Love it, well, maybe when we meet in person have a cocktail or two and continue down the path. excited for that? Awesome. So before we head into the after hours portion, I want to make sure that our listeners know where to find you. And we'll include all this stuff in the show notes. But if they want to learn more about what you do, or they want to connect with you personally, what sort of websites or social channels do you want to direct folks to?
Will Bressman 40:27
So I'm actually not on social media anymore. I've given that up first. business perspective, you know, we have everything for free in a box. And I'm happy to engage with anyone who'd like to respond. And so we're on, you know, our main sources are Twitter, LinkedIn, and obviously, our website, we're where everyone is accessible, and all of our contact information is there. So happy to spend time with anyone that would like to talk about our company, or any of these wonderful life philosophies any further, that's probably the best way to reach me, and definitely the company, all of our information, and all of our content is readily available.
David DeCelle 40:57
Awesome. And if I understand correctly, just to make sure we're very clear to whoever's listening to this. Initially, when you guys started, it was mainly around the regulatory component of starting an RA. So it was almost like a one and done sort of interaction, that is not the case anymore, you have plenty of ongoing services as well, regardless of the stage that the ri is in, is that correct?
Will Bressman 41:20
Correct. Yeah, our primary business now is the ongoing services and work with you from day one, or we can work with you at your 10th year when you want to sort of get more scale and efficiency. So we have changed, as you've mentioned over the years.
David DeCelle 41:33
Okay, cool, awesome. Well, as you've come to expect, in listening to the show, two quick asks that we do have number one, if you did find this episode valuable, and you think someone else may find it valuable as well just go ahead and share that with them. Give them a bullet point or two as to why you think they should spend their time, you know, listening to it. And then number two is, you know, speaking of reviews, as we did earlier in today's conversation, being in the consulting space, we don't have to deal with any scrutiny or rules around that. But if you leave a review for us on iTunes, we really appreciate that. And if you go ahead and screenshot that review, once it posts, and then shoot me a text to 978-228-2338, again, 978-228-2338. And just have will with that. So just set a screenshot, type the name well, so I know which episode it is in reference to. And as a thank you for doing so, you know, once the episode goes live, we'll probably keep this open for about a week. So however many reviews we get, I'll pull a name out of a hat, so to speak, and that practice diagnostic call that I was referencing earlier. Happy to offer that to you guys as a thank you. So essentially, what that will be is a 90 minute session where I rate you with questions about your business, understand the opportunities and the challenges that you're experiencing the vision of what you're creating, and then I'll you know, point you in the direction of a bunch of resources that you know, may be able to help so happy to spend some time with you as a thank you. And then if you'd like to connect with me personally, just simply google David de sel de ce e, LL. E, you'll see all the social channels that I'm on Instagram is probably the one that I'm most active on. And obviously, there's plenty of great content on the model FA website as well, which is just model fa.com. But we will head over to the after hours portion now. And well. Until then I appreciate your time, lots of good information and excited to see how we elevate one another moving forward.
Will Bressman 43:41
Thank you, thank you for the opportunity. And it was great to talk to you, I'm sure going to be flooded with responses from this. But now thanks a lot. This
David DeCelle 43:47
was great. Awesome. Cool, man, that was great. I read a lot of books, but your overview of the book motivates me quite a bit to move that up on my list because I'm all about kind of, you know, blowing something up and get in a totally different perspective. And I think it's just you know, helps people's minds you know, expand a little bit more than you know,
Will Bressman 44:22
as I said like for this time that we're in it's an interesting book because like it really how certain everyone is but everything all the time like it's just a nice sort of way to counterpoint that But yeah, I don't want to overstate it but I did like it a lot. So hopefully you like it.
David DeCelle 44:36
Oh, something tells me the way that people are certain about the fact that they have in their life something leads me to believe that that may be one of the reasons why you're not on social anymore.
Will Bressman 44:48
Yeah, I don't even know why I did it. It's only a recent thing. I started doing it in the summer sort of in like the lows of the pandemic and just like, you know, I don't know I need to take a break. It's not a lifetime decision, but It just was sort of like tough during everything that was going on this year. Last for sure.
David DeCelle 45:05
So share with me if you would be so kind, I'd love to hear about embarrassing stories, you know, so you've been in this business for 10 years, and it may be relevant to maybe a speaking gig or a client interaction or something along those lines. What embarrassing story would you be open to sharing?
Will Bressman 45:24
I think one that I would share without naming names is pretty early on in the experience, I forget the exact thing that happened. But like, basically, I remember the Fallout, which was that we sort of, I think there was a confusion on one of the regulatory documents that was about to be filed. So it wasn't filed, but we're serving the review period. And basically, like, you know, and I understand why this happened, but the person like got super angry, and like, was like, I need to speak to the CEO immediately and you know, called and was just sort of like in a 20 minute rant basically about like how terrible person I am. And how could we do this? And you know, all that stuff. And then this is actually not even that embarrassing. So I'll take another minute. And then the phone went out. And basically, like, I don't know, when he realized that the phone went out, but the phone went out, like, definitely like mid sentence. And then she called back, like, after a five minute or so break. So must've just been like, yeah, five minutes. And then like, when I picked up the phone the second time, I sort of like, giggled a little bit. And then he just went right back in. Like the neither of us acknowledge that five minute break happened. And then finally, when it was over, like, I was like, Did I miss anything important during those five minutes, I think just like hung up on me right away. And we corrected the problem. And I, again, I understand where he was coming from, because no one wants to have a mistake like that. But I think it was just sort of a funny, like, I've always laughed about that moment, because I can only imagine what was happening on the other end. And then neither of us were particularly ready to sort of acknowledge what took place and right. But anyway, I can only think of another sort of embarrassing story just about me, oh, I have a good one. The first time we did like a conference presentation, I don't love like public speaking, like, that's something that it's not a natural or comfortable thing for me until I had like, sort of like, we're going to do like, you know, one of these industry conferences, like basically a presentation of what we do. And we're gonna do with a demo on the screen of our software. So I had like, really prepare myself for it. And again, like, it's not something comes naturally to me, like I don't write, I feel uncomfortable and sort of cross like that. And I mean, this is really this, I can now like reliving the shame I felt but I prepared for it for a while to get there, the screen, like I loaded on the screen to begin the demo, the screen goes out. So I basically like within 30 seconds, like my whole plan for how we're going to do this goes off. And then I proceed to give like a 10 minute speech about what we do that basically has nothing to do with what we do. And like, this is like a straight up like almost like a commercial setting for our thing. And like, I ended it with just like, like I sort of realized what was happening. I must have just like semi blacked out during it, right. And I realized by the end like, wait, like I have said literally nothing about what I'm trying to say. Like, I don't sound like big speech about like, I just got rolling on, like some big speech about like, basically the life of an advisor. And like it ends and people are like, so that's what Alright, and then the person comes in, like, that's what hiring a box does. And I was like, actually, that has nothing to do with our inbox does like Sorry, guys, and I like shirked off the stage. And so I learned from that point, I need to not be the person giving the keynote addresses any conferences, and that was obviously a very low moment for me,
David DeCelle 48:42
or a backup plan. I've read some Yeah, I read some books around public speaking, you know, as I started getting into it, and that was one of the things they mentioned is always plan for the tech to not work. And it just it just steals your thunder and then you're like, Oh shit, like, What? What am I gonna talk about now? So yeah, I mean, it was just it was crazy. That's funny. Well, awesome, man. I appreciate the time for those of you who stuck around for the after hours portion hopefully got a laugh or two Yeah, miles off. And make sure that if you are ranting, you know to someone, make sure that you're looking at your phone to make sure that you're still on the line. Otherwise, the wind will be taken out of your sail you'll you'll get less satisfaction out of it, but Well, great to spend some time with you. Thank you for doing this. Awesome. Take care. All right. Bye.