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Kitces signs with Buckingham, adds star power to fast-growing RIA

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One of the financial advisory industry’s best-known personalities is joining forces with one of the industry’s fastest-growing firms.

Michael Kitces, a popular speaker, author of the widely read Nerd’s Eye View blog, co-founder of XY Planning Network and former director of wealth management at Pinnacle Advisory Group, will become head of planning strategy for Buckingham Wealth Partners. Jeffrey Levine, former CEO of BluePrint Wealth Alliance and a writer for Kitces.com and the Nerd’s Eye View blog, will join Kitces as Buckingham’s director of advanced planning.

Buckingham, an RIA that started as a CPA firm in St. Louis and is now in its 10th year, now has more than 40 offices around the country and approximately $18 billion in AUM as well as a TAMP (formerly Loring Ward), which oversees around $32 billion in assets. One of the industry’s most active acquirers of RIAs with seven transactions in 2019 alone, Buckingham is affiliated with Focus Financial Partners, the only publicly traded company that owns advisory firms.

Kitces says he was attracted by Buckingham’s size, reach and corporate philosophy.

“We’ll be able to take the ideas on our platform and put them into practice with an exponential impact,” he told Financial Planning. “Buckingham’s culture was also very appealing. Their deep CPA roots, long-term orientation and evidence-based investment and planning focus are perfectly aligned with our own approach.”

Hiring the high-profile duo of Kitces and Levine represents a major step towards Buckingham’s goal of “trying to become a destination for the industry’s best talent,” says CEO Adam Birenbaum.

The duo will team with investment strategist Larry Swedroe, Buckingham’s chief research officer who has written over a dozen books on investing, Birenbaum says.

Buckingham and XY Planning have very different clients.
Michael Kitces

“Michael and Jeffrey are major industry thought leaders,” Birenbaum says. “Their evidence-based research and outlook are perfectly aligned with Larry’s.”

Kitces has resigned from Pinnacle, where he worked for 17 years, but will retain his involvement with XY Planning Network and other ventures, including AdvicePay, fpPathfinder and The Kitces Report.

Working for both Buckingham and XY will not be a conflict, Kitces says. “They have very different clients,” he says. "XY has an advisor fee-for-services model with a Gen X and Gen Y clientele and Buckingham is a [percentage of] AUM advisor business working mainly with retirees.”

Birenbaum says he didn’t have a problem with the dual roles. “I see the businesses as complementary, not competitive,” he says. “Michael and Jeffrey can add value to both.”

Kitces and Levine will emphasize evidence-based planning, which Kitces defines as using “long-term research to see what can and can’t value.”

Traditional financial planning tends to use rules of thumb, he says, while evidence-based planning tries to deploy research to determine what clients actually need, such as equity glide paths in retirement and optimal rebalancing strategies.

Moreover, traditional financial planning is still heavily investing oriented, according to Kitces, who is a Financial Planning columnist. He envisions planning advice moving “beyond portfolios” and sees the profession attempting to become “better systematized” and more scalable.

Buckingham will remain focused on both organic and inorganic growth, Birenbaum says. The firm recently bought Nova Wealth Management, a $500 million RIA based in Atlanta, and has “very robust conversations in the pipeline.”

The current coronavirus-driven market slide may cause potential sellers to “delay” their decisions, Birenbaum says. Nonetheless, he remains “very optimistic,” adding “times of volatility is where great organizations show their strength.”

Bringing talent like Kitces and Levine on board, Birenbaum says, is “never more important than in times like this.”

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