Since it was founded in 1979, RIA Ronald Blue & Co., has taken a different tack to counseling its 6,000 clients by basing its advice on lessons drawn from the bible.
“It has been a good niche for us,” says the firm’s President and Chief Executive Russ Crosson. “Clients come to us because they want to be good stewards.”
With $6.4 billion in AUM, the firm comes in at number 4 on Financial Planning’s 2013 list of the Top RIAs in the country.
“We believe that the bible is the best source of the knowledge for how we manage our wealth for our lives,” Crosson says. “People perish for lack of vision. Around here we say we want to create a 100-year firm. Our mission is about helping people be freed up financially by applying biblical knowledge. It’s a compelling mission to help people be freed up and not in stress.”
Which is not to say that every Ronald Blue client must share the firm’s views or come to meetings ready to discuss the bible. But the firm's 85 advisors, who work out of 15 regional offices nationwide, are prepared to cite relevant biblical passages for clients, should the need arise. And inevitably, Crosson says, many of the firm’s clients choose Ronald Blue because they are attracted to its unique approach to money management.
“There is definitely a common value base with our clients,” he says.
Much of the firm’s work revolves around generational issues facing its wealthy clients, many of whom are doctors, dentists, small business owners and larger entrepreneurs. The concept of wealth existing to serve a larger purpose underlies much of the firm’s wealth transfer work, according to Crosson.
Some of the bible’s core messages about wealth include the following, he says:
- The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
- Steady plodding brings prosperity.
- Know where your money is coming from and where it is going.
- The neighborhood you buy in is more important than the house you buy.
- He who makes haste to become rich will not go unpunished.
- You can leave your kids money and you can leave them wisdom and only one will endure and that is wisdom.
“That’s just part and parcel of the advice we give,” Crosson says. “Having said that, we have to do excellent estate planning and tax planning and excellent investment planning. We have a group of deep subject experts that support all of our advisors in all of those disciplines.”
In coming years, Crosson says, he sees huge changes on the horizon for RIAs and the financial services industry overall.
“The days of, ‘I have money and I stick it in a mutual fund’ are over,” he thinks. “Clients are demanding a more global perspective. We are a global economy and that’s different than when I started in the business 30 years ago. It’s not business as usual over the next 10 years. For our team to accomplish the goals we have we have to be thinking outside of the box.”
But, as it innovates, Crosson says, the firm will continue to base much of its strategic decision-making, and work with clients, on truths that it considers to be enduring and eternal.