Robert Netzly has seen a number of financial advisors join his fast-growing, faith-based RIA firm, Inspire Advisors, in the past year. The firm says its ability to recruit RIAs has accelerated in recent months, especially since President Joe Biden announced a plan in September for businesses with more than 100 or more employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations, or start weekly testing, he said.

The Biden mandate plan, which is being challenged in various courts, was to have taken effect yesterday. That happened to be the day Inspire announced that two more advisors had recently joined its team: Drew Lehman and Matt Bonito, who managed more than $250 million in client assets, previously at Edelman Financial Engines, one of the nation's largest RIA firms. They will lead the Upward Management Group in Columbus, Ohio.

Growth at Inspire from advisors opposed to mandatory vaccinations comes despite a widespread consensus in the medical community, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that vaccinations remain the most effective way to avoid serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19. Nonetheless, there remains a large segment of the population that remains opposed to vaccines and refuses to accept vaccine mandates for a variety of reasons, including religious beliefs and pre-existing medical conditions.

The Columbus-based duo, like other advisors who joined the firm recently, share a common dedication to biblically responsible investing, Netzly said. “Advisors come here so that they can run their practice and line up their faith, usually because there is a various friction point at their previous firms,” he said. “And specifically, now with the vaccine mandate, that’s just one more thing, and sometimes, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Netzly said what they have seen at Inspire over the past number of years and certainly since the practice’s inception in 2015, is that “Christians are having their eyes open in that they are invested in things that are deeply contradictory to their biblical convictions such as pro-life issues,” he said. “And they are invested in abortion drug manufacturing companies or the vaccine manufacturers that are using embryonic stem cell and fetal tissue from abortions in their research, and things like that they weren’t aware of before but now they are realizing it and it’s causing an issue for them and their conscience, and now they are looking for ways to align their values with their beliefs.”

As a result, Netzly said the firm has been growing in “leaps and bounds” as more Christians take steps to invest in a way that supports their biblical beliefs. He said there has been an uptick in advisors reaching out with concerns about their medical freedoms, and even in some cases, just straight up hostility toward their faith.

Some of the larger firms, he said, have begun to implement policies that make it difficult for Christian advisors to operate with a clear conscience and feel valued as a member of the team. Larger firms also are likely to be the first targets of vaccine mandates, should they be upheld in the courts.

Mid-sized firms lile Inspire may be positioned to offer advisors more flexibility. “We are here to support those people and give them a platform that encourages them to bring their whole selves to work, including their biblical beliefs, and to serve their clients in the best way that they desire to do with full encouragement and support,” he said.

Lehman, who had been with Edelman Financial Engines since August 2016, said in a statement that his conscience was telling him he “needed to find a firm that upheld morals, values and principles that come from the Bible.” But the vaccine mandate was the final straw for him. He said he has already had Covid and has a T cell immunity report. “But these were looking like they would not have been considered by my previous firm,” he said.

Bonito had been with Edelman Financial Engines since January 2014. “I'm very excited about the fact that I'm on a team that is committed to advancing the Kingdom in addition to putting our clients' interests and values first,” he added.

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