Future Proof of Concept
That’s the most visceral reaction I can muster up following my 72 hours in Huntington Beach, CA at the inaugural Future Proof, the world’s first wealth conference festival.
It’s safe to say the entire conference industry has been put on notice. The bar has officially been raised.
Or as Barry Ritholtz so eloquently put it, "The traditional finance conference was murdered this week."
Do I feel a little bit like Kramer after falling asleep while sunbathing in butter because I failed to apply any sunscreen? Sure.
Am I more energized and passionate about the future of our industry and the possibilities that lie ahead of us than ever before? Absolutely.
So many inspiring discussions, demos, and presentations from innovators and tastemakers at the intersection of wealth management, asset management and FinTech.
As much as the pandemic flipped the conference circuit on its head, it was long overdue for an overhaul to begin with. The notion of travelling across the country for three days of wearing business attire inside of a cold hotel ballroom while listening to panel after panel of pay-to-play vendors talking their book on stage just doesn't have the same appeal it used to.
I'm not naïve enough to think that traditional financial conferences will disappear altogether. But I do think that in this post-Covid world, many people (myself included) are going to be more discerning about their work travel commitments - especially those that require long flights and meaningful time spent away from family.
The incentives must be there.
Not every event needs to be an outdoor festival on the beach to succeed, nor should they be. But to some degree there needs to be a unique experiential element.
To that end, here are some things that stood out to me that made the Future Proof experience such a success...
- Diversity, Front and Center. Relative to any other conference I've attended, Future Proof had the most diversity of people and perspectives. A big step in the right direction for an industry where this has historically been a challenge.
- The Food: My God, the food. Not a single rubbery chicken in sight. No sounds of silverware clanking in a chilly hotel ballroom. Food trucks as far as the eye can see. Perfectly sized portions to sample and snack at your leisure. Home run.
- Choose Your Own Adventure: No two attendees experienced the same Future Proof. There was no pressure to attend every session or visit every booth. And yet somehow I still came away feeling like I digested a ton of new insights, learned of some new technologies and came home with some intriguing ideas to follow up on. It felt like the perfect balance of productivity and chill.
Was it perfect? Of course not. Nothing is. If I had to come up with a few minor quibbles/suggestions for future years...
- More shaded, quasi-indoor spaces: This is not just for the folks like me, for whom the Sun is a mortal enemy. But also for the speakers, panelists, and moderators who want to utilize visual aids or better be able to see their audience without the glare.
- Misting stations: Duh.
- Get rid of the graveyard slot: If there's one relic of the conventional conference that remained, it was the handful of sessions that took place on the final morning that 90% of attendees miss out on because they're either already on their way home or stayed out too late for the final night festivities (or both). I've always felt bad for speakers in that unfortunate time slot. I understand there is a content agenda to fill, but I don't think anyone would complain if things wrapped up the last night.
I'm sure I'll think of some additional feedback and relay it to the powers that be, but for now let's just give kudos where kudos is due.
To the folks at Advisor Circle and Ritholtz Wealth Management who organized and operated this incredible event - thank you for an unforgettable three days. Expectations were high, yet somehow exceeded.
The formula works. The concept is proven. All that's left is to iterate and improve to make next year even better.
I'll see you there.
Future Proof photo dump...
View from my room at the Pasea. I had never been to Huntington Beach before. Just gorgeous.
I spoke on the panel, "The Mainstreaming of Alts: Panacea or Poison?" We had a great crowd and I thought my fellow panelists, Abby Salameh (CAIS) and Bryn Talkington (Requisite Capital Management), had some great insights. Aaron Filbeck (CAIA Association) was a fantastic moderator!
Opening evening cocktail reception: taking in the scene with Samantha Russell (FMG) and Sean Brown (YCharts)
Two of the smartest people I know - Kai Wu (Sparkline Capital) and Matt Kadnar (GMO)!
Side view of the Surf City stage - I think we can all agree this beats a hotel ballroom.
My publisher Harriman House kindly sent out some free copies The Allocator's Edge that I signed for attendees.
Me and my second child :)
My friend Brian Portnoy of Shaping Wealth put on a masterclass in his interactive, hands-on workshop - Storytelling for Advisors. Complete with Mad Libs and other whimsical handouts, BP had the audience (present company included) eating from the palm of his hand. Probably my favorite session from the entire week.
Musical performance by Big Boi to cap off the final night. Some people were disappointed that we didn't get both members of Outkast, but I've always considered Big Boi to be André 3000 Value myself (I'll show myself out.)
The Harriman House mafia is alive and well!
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