'I don't lack for ideas': What's next for kitces.com?

How Michael Kitces went from 'loner nerd' to financial planning global influencer

'I don't lack for ideas': What's next for kitces.com?

Michael Kitces never expected to be the huge success that he is in today’s financial advising world, but he’s embracing it with even more plans to help his community.

“It’s incredibly strange. I was a loner nerd in high school who had very few friends. So, the idea of building businesses like this, and growing them to the point that people from other countries follow our writing and what we do is incredibly alien and bizarre to me,” he told Wealth Professional. “But, I don’t lack for ideas on what else we can do in the advisor world.”

Kitces began selling insurance in 2000, but was “a terrible prospector”, so shifted to the brokerage, then wealth management, business, where he became a director of financial planning. He built a team and systematized its financial planning process, but wanted to share the advanced retirement and tax planning analysis with more than each client.

“I had this growing frustration that we did all this really cool work for our clients. It was great sophisticated analysis, but then it ended with that client, and we moved on and no one else was ever going to see it,” he said. “But someone was probably going to do the exact same thing for their client who has a similar problem halfway across the country. So, we were all collectively reinventing the wheel, and this bothered me at a very deep personal level.”

He started sharing his research at industry conferences and publishing it in trade journals.

“I found there was a real hunger in the advisor community for people who had actually done the math and done the research and could share it in a way that others could use,” he said.

Kitces launched Kitces.com in 2008 as a premium monthly newsletter that examined financial planning topics like white papers. But, he also wanted to comment on industry trends, technology, and business tips, so launched his Nerd’s Eye View blog. It had 100+ per cent growth for a couple of years, but also showed him other gaps to fill for the advisor community.

“What started out as purely an education platform for advisors has become a pretty robust offering of written content, webinars, and courses, and we’re continuing to build a team around advisor education. It has also led to a growing number of entrepreneurial start-ups serving the advisor community,” said Kitces. He’s now co-founded XY Planning Network, AdvicePay, New Planner Recruiting, fpPathfinder, and FA BeanCounters.

XY Planning Network helps advisors start, run, and grow independent advisory firms that charge a monthly subscription fee for financial planning. It now has more than 1,600 advisors and 100 support staff plus $11 billion in customer assets that it advises on.

He also raised Crowdsource capital from financial advisors and built AdvicePay, a fintech platform to help them handle operations and compliance issues and business workflow of doing fee-for-service payments. It’s growing rapidly, too, and now has more than 20 staff. 

He then started New Planner Recruiting, which helps advisory firms hire associate planners to build succession plans, and FP Pathfinder, which creates flowcharts and checklists for financial advisors to run their businesses more efficiently.

“When I look at the world, I see the gaps, though not in a negative way,” said Kitces. “But I think someone should be doing that thing and no one seems to be, so I’m going to do it.”

Kitces.com now has about $20 million in revenue across all of its businesses and 150 team members and, Kitces said, “I’ve still got an incredible list of businesses I would love to implement” as he sees the gaps in the advisor community that need filling. But, without any business training, he feels the weight of starting and scaling businesses and paying his teams.

“There are definitely hard challenges to that,” he said, noting he was a psychology major and theatre minor pre-med student, so has had to learn all this. “But, I feel more excited, energized now looking at the coming 10 years and what the businesses are doing and what opportunities are in the advisor landscape. I’m more excited now than I have been at any point in the past.”

Kitces, 44, switched from an independent advisory firm to the Missouri-based Buckingham Wealth Partners two years ago, though he lives in his home-town of Reston, Virginia, a Washington, D.C. suburb. Buckingham advises consumers and supports advisors, and has $50 billion of assets under management. So, he now helps its leadership with strategic planning, though he still works with advisors and does a monthly article and two weekly podcasts for it. 

While he’s focusing on the American market, he noted his podcast and blogs have followings in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Africa, and Japan.

Kitces also has some Canadian roots. After his father’s family emigrated from Moldova to Canada, his dad was born in Ottawa. He moved to the U.S. as a teen, but still has family here. 

Kitces.com was well positioned for the pandemic because Kitces had started upscaling, and aggressively investing, in it in 2019. He’d been building the team and shifting to online education, where advisors could get continuing education credits, so it grew by 100% in each of 2020 and 2021. It’s now more than quadrupled it’s 2019 size and he’s been doing his 50 to 70 conference speeches a year – now totalling about 1,000 – on webinars and Zoom.

What’s next?

“Now that the industry is changing to being a real advice business, it’s exposing a lot of gaps in platforms and technology, which to me are all just gaps and opportunities to be solved with new businesses and ventures,” said Kitces, noting that he sees those in the new advisory fee models, which are attracting younger clients, and the implementation and technology support the industry needs to make this shift.

“At the end of the day, it feels good to help people and serve a community that you’re trying to serve,” he said. “I can’t imagine retiring.”