The Secret Life Of 'Downtown' Josh Brown


The thought of Wall Street and investing conjures up contradictory images for many people. You either think of the Wolf of Wall Street lifestyle of coked-up traders shouting into phones, or an old white guy in a suit thumbing through folders of spreadsheets.

The modern reality of investing is something much different from those two extremes, and it’s best typified by Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO and perennial Benzinga Global Fintech Awards MC Josh Brown. Brown ditches the dull suits and Oxfords for business casual and custom-made Nike Air Force 1s.

The traditional Wall Street guy gets called on CNBC to discuss the markets. Josh Brown goes on VICELAND to teach you how to budget for weed money. (He hosts CNBC’s “Halftime Report,” too, but work with me here). You get the picture.

Ritholtz Wealth Management was recently named to the Financial Times list of the top 300 financial advisors in the U.S. To commemorate the milestone, Benzinga caught up with Brown to learn about the changing face of the wealth management industry.

What’s Inhaling Got To Do With Investing?

Brown doesn’t put much stock in the staid notions of what Wall Street looks like. You wouldn’t think your financial advisor would get hundreds of retweets for posting finance memes to Twitter Inc TWTR, but here we are. Times have changed.

To illustrate his point, Brown compared the evolution of the U.S. presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton had to tread lightly in 1992 and say he never inhaled pot, while Obama in 2008 basically said “I was 20 once, so what?

“The world moves forward,” Brown said. “In this day and age, to pretend like we don't all have a personal life because we work in finance, like we walk around in suits and ties all day? Enough already!

"We try to be open and honest about who we are. We show up to work in jeans and sneakers sometimes. It’s about the substance with us, not the style."

See Also: Kevin O'Leary Wants To Teach Millennials How To Invest With Fintech, Even If He Loses Money Doing It

21st-Century Wealth Management

The substance of what a high-level wealth manager does isn't quite what most people think, either. While there are plenty of analyst notes and research reports to pore over, to Brown, advising is a game of relationships, not returns. He’ll spend as much time estate planning as he does watching the markets.

“This job is about understanding the real needs of the client, which are not how many points I can beat the S&P by,” Brown said. “The real needs are getting people from Point A to Point Z and all the real challenges in between. It might not make the Wall Street Journal, but quite frankly, it’s what the clients really need the most from us.”


Of course, since it's 2017, technology is also a huge part of what Ritholtz does. The shop only has 15 people on staff, but manages hundreds of accounts and strategies. Brown said fintech lets his team do things that would have required huge amounts of human capital in previous iterations of Wall Street.

“If we were trying to do what we’re doing now in the 80s or 90s, we’d need 100 people,” Brown said. “There’s no possible way to carry out the amount of operations we do as quickly, efficiently and cleanly without all the technology we deploy. It allows a firm to scale and deliver something consistent to all the clients.”

Work-Work Balance

Even though fintech has helped Brown do some heavy lifting, he still works around the clock. If you ask him, though, he says he doesn’t work at all.

“Frankly, I could be reading something at 10 at night so that I’m able to discuss it intelligently the next morning at 7 am,” Brown said.

“The aspect of work-life balance that I am good at is that I have such a passion for it,” he said. "I don’t have hobbies that don’t tie directly into my career. If I wasn’t doing this for a living as a financial advisor, I’d still probably be reading all the same stuff that I’m reading anyways.

“In our spare time, we’re thinking about this stuff. It’s the life we’ve chosen.”

Join the CNBC "Fast Money" host and Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO on Nov. 9 for an intimate evening of conversation at Benzinga's Detroit headquarters.

Brown will speak about the financial markets, financial technology, and how to build wealth as a money manager, along with a host of other topics.

Click here to register for this free event.

Posted In: FintechMovers & ShakersTop StoriesSuccess StoriesExclusivesInterviewGeneralBenzinga Fintech AwardsBenzinga Global Fintech AwardsCNBCJosh BrownRitholtz Wealth Management
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