In late March, Creative Planning—the full-service financial-advisory firm and RIA headquartered in Leawood, Kan., that's been gaining traction as Barron's No. 1 independent advisory for the past three years, an unprecedented accolade—announced a partnership with entrepreneur, philanthropist and author Tony Robbins.
Robbins, author of the best-selling "MONEY: Master the Game and Unleash The Power Within," will serve as chief of investor psychology—a title essentially invented for him.
"Tony will be a great advocate for Creative and the fiduciary standard," says Peter Mallouk, president and chief investment officer, "and I am proud to have him."
Some may remember that, less than two years ago, around the time MONEY was published, Robbins teamed up with Elliot Weissbluth, founder & CEO of Chicago-based HighTower Advisors, to advocate for investors. However, while Robbins spoke out in favor of fiduciary responsibility and giving investors access to brokerage firms' data about the real costs of receiving financial advice, Weissbluth questioned whether implementing the Department of Labor's proposed rule was practical.
But the arrangement with Creative Planning is different. Jenn Connelly, a spokesperson for Robbins, explains, "Tony and HighTower decided early on that it was in their mutual best interests not to engage in an economic endeavor. They continue to support each other’s efforts as champions for independent advice and the fiduciary standard."
To some, the news from Creative Planning came as a surprise. The firm has maintained a somewhat low-key profile, even while proving itself as the Little Engine That Could. In the dozen years since Mallouk, 46, took the reins, its assets under management have swelled from $30 million to some $15 billion, and its roster of professionals from a handful to 150 financial experts and another hundred in support staff spread across the country. Dubbed the nation's No. 1 fee-only wealth manager by CNBC, Creative Planning prides itself on its high fiduciary standard, putting clients first through its transparent, low-fee structure, with no broker-dealer affiliations or proprietary funds.
It's grown primarily from word of mouth and referrals. It's done no acquisitions and does no advertising or direct marketing. It doesn't even have a brochure.
So why the partnership with a celebrity like Robbins?
It is not a publicity stunt, Mallouk insists, calling such an assumption "way off base." Robbins has a demonstrated understanding of money management, Mallouk points out, partly from having assembled, in his books, "the largest volume of interviews ever done with the greatest money minds of our time, including Bogle, Buffett, Swenson, Dalio, Icahn, Schwab and on and on," he says. "Tony is a great advocate for the fiduciary standard and an incredible voice for the Creative Planning message."
Almost from the beginning, Mallouk has been on a mission to revolutionize the way financial advice is delivered. The firm never compiles performance data, for example, because that could be misleading. Each portfolio is customized to a client's particular situation. And he is both personally and professionally dedicated to educating average investors about how to handle their assets, minimize taxes and fees and maximize results.
This, perhaps most of all, is where Robbins comes in. "Tony is doing several things," says Mallouk. "First, he is working with my team on understanding the different needs different people have. Once you know what motivates someone, it is much easier to give them relevant advice. Second, he is quickly becoming a leader in terms of educating the public on the fiduciary standard. Third, he is going to help us educate our clients and the public on the behavioral aspects of financial planning and investment management."