As an industry insider with over 34 years of experience, Michael Lane, the head of enterprise, U.S. Wealth Advisory at BlackRock, has a wealth of knowledge to share on topics such as ETF trading, market structure, and liquidity. On the other hand, Nabia Jenkins-Johnston, senior producer at Informa Global Finance, is a leading voice in the ETF space, known for her keen insights on industry trends and her ability to bring together thought leaders from across the financial world. Together, they discuss impact investing, the next generation of financial advisors and leaving a lasting legacy.
Nabia Jenkins-Johnston: Impact is about value setting. At Wealth Management EDGE we’ve used the Inside ETFs agenda to discuss the importance of value driven investing, customization and curating a portfolio experience that matches the goals of the individual. Can you speak to us about ways we can make sure that our principles align with our investing?
Michael Lane: I entered the business in 1989 as a “financial advisor.” I put that in quotes because it was what I called myself, but too often I fell into the trap of selling a product rather than truly understanding the goals of the client and aligning the portfolio solution that best improved the chances of achieving that goal. It was very common back then to ask a lot of questions to determine the purpose of the money, but there was an objective of what was desirable to “sell” rather than to “align.”
Today, both technology and the structure of the advice business, have enabled investors to choose from very low cost “off the shelf” investment solutions that may align closely with general objectives, or highly personalized advice that takes every aspect of the investors needs and goals into consideration. But there is an overuse of the word personalized. From my perspective, where personalization really takes place is at the intersection of the financial advisor and the client, understanding the goals of the client and every detail about their situation including tax, term, duration, purpose, values, legacy, etc, so that the investment advice is truly personalized to that individual, couple, family or institution.
All too often we ask investors about their purpose for the money, and we mean one thing—what will it be used for. That is the first question I ask anyone asking me for guidance or feedback about investing. But today, when we ask that question, we need to look for both the outcome goal, as well as the values that one may wish to align with the investments they are making. And we need to be careful with the solutions we use to make sure they truly align with the purpose of that individual. So, at Inside ETFs, we should be very clear when we are speaking about personalization, purpose, values and impact, what we mean, how it is executed, and where and why it aligns with one’s principles of investing.
NJJ: We know that impact investing is largely about opportunities—expanding and diversifying your reach and making a mark through wealth management. What new opportunities can we expect to see in 2023? How can we get ahead of the curve as we look forward this year and beyond?
ML: I believe the private market space is going to continue to grow as smaller, innovative companies, driven by private investment, grow rapidly as they Innovate in their fields. The amount of money flowing into the private market space to help companies do the research and develop solutions to some of society’s most vexing challenges is going to be staggering. For me, this is an investment opportunity that may be unrivaled in our lifetime.
NJJ: We know that your work with FinServ Foundation’s Next-Gen program seeks to bring diverse professionals to the talent pool for the financial services industry. Can you talk to us about the next generation of financial advisors and ways the landscape is changing?
ML: I was on an advisory meeting recently with an amazing group of people, led by Jaime Hopkins and Brian Money, who are determined to align the characteristics of the people giving advice to those receiving it. What does that mean? We spend quite a bit of time discussing how underserved populations within America need to be better served by highly educated and trained individuals that have more commonality with the investor that may exist today. Our goal within FinServ is to develop rising college seniors to be more prepared to enter the advice business day one, and to make sure that the group of young men and women that we are developing are diverse. Diversity goes far beyond just race and gender, it also includes economic, geographic, cultural and types of studies. More people need advice than receive it and one of the challenges for our industry is people often like to do business with people that are more like them. So our goal is to improve the number of people receiving advice by improving, over time, the diversity available from those advice givers.
There are far too many young investors going at it alone, and we hope to reduce that number over time.
NJJ: Michael, I love your social media presence! I recently saw your “Hey Dad” planning discussion with the next generation of Lane’s … your sons Brooks and Christian. Can you talk to us a bit about what it means to leave a legacy through wealth management?
ML: The development of the “Hey Dad” series has been so much fun and educational for me. I just finished filming an episode with my daughter Kendall and look forward to seeing how that one comes out.
Legacy is important regardless of how much you are investing, earning or saving. Many people I speak with across the wealth spectrum have a desire to leave a legacy, which can be financial or can be a family precedent for future generations to follow by focusing on some meaningful impact made on the world.
In my discussions with my kids, we focus on the word “purpose” quite a bit and like I said early in this interview, the word purpose has two meanings—what use you have for the money, and what impact you want the money to have. I’ve learned a lot about my kids listening to them in these interviews and I HIGHLY encourage every parent to have this discussion early and often. I waited too long to begin talking about money with my own children and hope the videos encourage others to begin that process much earlier. The legacy that I’d like to leave is just that, hopefully making a small impact that stimulates better discussions between parents and their children about money, investing and legacy. One of the events I’m really looking forward to in April is the chance to speak with the children of BlackRock employees during “bring your kids to work day.” I know there are thousands of financial advisors who similarly want to make an impact on this world and improve the financial literacy of those following us, and events like these are one way to make investing less of a mystery, make it more meaningful, and if we can continue to align first time investors desired goals and purpose with their investments, we will leave behind an important legacy.
NJJ: Can you expand on that? What are some of the challenges you see in helping the next generation building the wealth that they can use towards creating a legacy?
ML: Clearly, in my conversations with young people—not just my children—I can see both a strong desire to invest in ways that align with one’s values, as well as an aspiration to make a difference in the world with the wealth they build. That is encouraging to see, of course, but they also struggle with how to make that happen. The ubiquity of online resources is both a blessing and a curse as well all know. I try to emphasize that the world of investing is very different from when I was coming of age, with more instruments to invest in, more sources of information, and so forth, but the rules haven’t changed. You still need to figure out what you want to use the money for, and when, and build a diversified portfolio with the aim of achieving that goal. The mistake a lot of young investors make is to put money into volatile investments when they need the money in the short term, like to buy a car or put a down payment on a house. But overall, I feel encouraged. Investors today that are under the age of 35, say, or even 40 have faced a serious of challenges as they came of age that my generation frankly did not: 9/11, the 2008 crisis and the Great Recession, COVID and then the more recent high inflation environment. The fact that so many are eager to give something back to the generations that follow them is something we all should be encouraged by.
Michael Lane, Head of Enterprise, U.S. Wealth Advisory, BlackRock
Michael Lane is Head of Enterprise, U.S. Wealth Advisory and a member of the US Wealth Advisory Executive Committee and the BlackRock Global Operating Committee. Working with financial advisors for three decades, Michael oversees the business that serves the largest BlackRock relationships across the Wealth Industry.
Prior to becoming head of Enterprise for USWA in 2023, Michael was head of iShares for US Wealth Advisory since joining BlackRock in 2018. Prior to joining BlackRock, Michael served as the Global Head of Strategic Retirement Initiatives at Dimensional Fund Advisors, responsible for the strategic development and global distribution of retirement solutions for one of the world's premier asset managers. During his 14-year tenure at Dimensional, Michael played a range of leadership roles, including CEO of Dimensional SmartNest LLC, providing customized managed account solutions for defined contribution plans. He additionally worked in the office of the chairman as well as leading the development of the retirement, broker-dealer, bank and TAMP businesses. Prior to Dimensional, Michael served as a director of advisor services at TIAA-CREF.
Michael has published three books, including Secrets of the Wealth Makers, as well as a range of articles on financial planning and advisory practices. A member of the Carson Wealth FinServ Advisory Council, he is kicking off the FinServ Foundation's Next-Gen program - an initiative that will focus on bringing diverse talent to the financial services industry.
An '89 graduate of Binghamton University in New York, he has served as an Executive Committee member of the Binghamton University Foundation Board and received the Medal of Distinguished Service in 2019. As a former men's tennis student-athlete at Binghamton, the tennis complex was renamed the "Lane-Starke Tennis Center," based on his passion for the sport and involvement with the program.
Most importantly, Michael is a father of three, residing with his family in Austin, Texas.