Carson Group welcomed partner firms ahead of its annual Excell conference this week at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, announcing several new developments during a Partner Summit held Tuesday.
“Our value proposition six months from now will be far superior to the one we have today because we are building an infinite company,” said Ron Carson, the charismatic leader of the Carson “collective.” “We're playing the infinite game to unleash your infinite potential.”
Founded in 1983 as Carson Wealth, Carson Group now comprises three related businesses—the wealth management firm, a coaching network launched in 1993 and a partnership established in 2012, now with some 120 affiliated firms. Tuesday’s announcements included updates and additions to the rapidly growing platform, including a lead generation program, new investment research portal, additional investment options and a “model hub” to let advisors administer multiple accounts simultaneously.
“I'm here to tell you that what you've seen up to this point is absolutely nothing compared to what you're going to experience,” said Carson, who admitted that mistakes have been made over the last 40 years. The firm’s focus has shifted from providing an excellent experience, something he characterized as table stakes in today’s industry, to a focus on “high impact convenience.” High impact convenience represents the next level of consumer service, he said, building trust and offering simplicity.
Burt White, the former LPL investment strategist turned Carson evangelist, received a round of applause and a few whistles from partners in attendance when he announced the new model portfolio hub.
“What it allows you to do is to create a model and tie multiple clients to that model,” he said. “One, two, 15 or a hundred. And then every time you change the model, it goes through and does it for all 100 of those clients that are tied to the model, as opposed to today, where you have to go into every single one.”
The hub is expected to launch early next year. Next month, said White, Carson will be rolling out a new investment research content portal offering more functionality than the traditional dashboard.
“The (traditional) dashboard to me is the witness protection program of useful information,” he said. “So, we also make it really ugly.”
The new site will resemble Carson’s marketing hub, offering daily research blogs, weekly podcasts and short videos from Carson investment leaders that can be shared with clients, and providing asset allocation advice in an easy-to-read table.
“And to be able to help you manage those assets, we are going to have portfolios coming in the new few months that will be using these house views,” he said.
“In the next few months, on a stagger basis, we're going to be announcing a ton of new things,” said White, including up to 200 new ETF options from BlackRock and State Street that will become available in October.
“Think about the asset classes that are not available to you today,” he said. “High yield bank loans, commodities, individual countries, sectors industries, you wanna reduce duration? There are wonderful ETFs in there that are low duration. You wanna add some income? You wanna think about hedges to inflation? You wanna add gold?”
New alternative strategies have also been added to the investment platform, including AMG Pantheon, BREIT, CION Ares Diversified Credit Fund and Owl Rock Core Income Fund.
Nimesh Patel, who was appointed Carson’s first chief technology officer in February, said the firm is also focused on creating advisor and client interfaces that are intuitive, in much the same way that Apple evolves the iPhone design by studying the way users interact with it.
“Consumer experience is being solved in many industries far better,” he said. “Everyone is solving how to engage a consumer, give them the right information. We have not done that in financial services.”
Utilizing proprietary data from partners and Carson’s own 40-year history, Patel said that his team is developing intuitive interfaces that can predict advisors’ needs and direct them through proven and simplified processes to attract, retain, serve and grow their clientele.
“Every single change we make at Carson, every single capability we build at Carson and every single product we release at Carson is going to be data driven,” he said. “This is taking you from spreadsheets to giving you workflow to a recommendation engine that tells you the probably of success of doing this workflow so you can focus on the right things. This is taking your quantitative data and adding the dimensions of behavioral data and giving you insights that are unique.”
Another new initiative that will begin a second phase of testing in October has already begun generating new leads for firms that join the program, executives said. A contact center dedicated to sourcing leads and connecting them to partner firms, based on geography or specialization, has referred more than 170 potential clients since a pilot program began in April.
Developed in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group, the “lead acquisition engine” is a three-stage funnel, using marketing efforts across multiple channels, including digital and SEO marketing, to drive leads that go through a sales center where representatives vet them. The platform, using an "optimization engine", drops those leads onto participating advisors’ calendars.
“It’s been miraculous,” said Abbey Henderson, CEO of Abaris Financial Group, a Carson partner that participated in the alpha testing phase. “The ability for the call center to pivot in real time learn new things and actually roll those things out for the next call has just been amazing. There are probably two big takeaways. One is that when you have a proven process that you can replicate every time it makes it successful for everyone because the call center knows what you're going to do and you know what you're going to do when the lead lands in your lap. I think the other thing is that I underestimated the true value of a warm handoff. When these leads are ending up in my office, to a large degree, they're already trusting us. They already understand the process.”
Jamie Hopkins, a managing partner and social media spokesperson for Carson, said the center is typically able to reach out to potential clients within 2 minutes of receiving a lead. “We are not quite done testing all the pieces,” he said, “but we know the pieces that work today and that we're ready to scale out.”
“We're gonna push it,” said Carson. “Like, we're gonna do things. We’re going to continue to look for ways to be unique and help you stand out, not only in the eyes of your client, but your community and prospects.
“If it's not broken, break it,” he said. “And we're looking at everything at Carson.”