Finance isn’t sexy. Ross Almlie, a 22-year veteran in the financial advisory industry, knows it well. Terms are confusing, numbers get overwhelming, and often people end up throwing their hands up and saying, “Can you just take care of this for for me?”
If Almlie hears those words, he sees it as a sign of failure.
“That is the worst thing I could ever hear a client say to me. It means I’ve failed to educate them at a level in which they needed to understand it [finances], and ultimately, I haven’t done my job,” he said.
Almlie has been working to bring the finances industry to an understandable level for people throughout his career. He started BreadVault, a program to teach kids and famlies about saving money. In November, he opened Future Bright, a fee-only registered investment advisor (RIA) in Moorhead to continue that work.
At Future Bright, Almlie steers away from tendencies he’s seen in the finance industry to intentionally confuse clients, in order to maintain more control.
“The finance industry is short on transparency and education,” he said. “Those are the two areas that Future Bright is trying to disrupt.”
In fact, one leg of Future Bright is to offer educational services to teach finances at a middle school level. Much of it is, in fact, ideas and mathematics learned in middle school, Almlie said.
“Compound interest is an application of multiplication and basic algebra. Dividend yields and earnings per share require simple division. Stock splits involve division and multiplication,” he said. “None of it is rocket science despite the industry’s best efforts to make you believe it is.”
Future Bright utilizes Motif Investing, a Silicon Valley-based investment brokerage firm, for its asset management and custodian services. Motif allows users to assemble a basket of indexes – or, “a thematically weighted basket of stocks” Almlie described, called a “Motif.” They can then buy the basket without incurring a transaction cost under the fee-based management program.
“For example, if a client has a family member who has cancer, he could allocate a portion of his investment account to a Motif called ‘Battling Cancer,’” Almlie explains. “I have one called ‘Ross’s Right Brain Risers,’ and it contains athletic apparel companies, technology companies, retail companies, and financial companies.”
Users can also rebalance the basket, sell one or more of the individual investments from the basket, or sell the whole basket without a transaction cost.
Motif Investing’s founder, Hardeep Walia, is a former 1 Million Cups Fargo speaker and a frequent contributor on Fox Business, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Forbes.
“Ross and I met on Twitter in 2012,” Walia said. “That summer, Motif had just announced our beta trial of our advisor platform, and it was clear that Ross had done his homework on us. He became the first advisor on our platform. His input and advocacy have been integral to our growth in the RIA space, and we view him as a great advisor partner and innovator with us in the advisory field.”
Almlie said he chose to integrate Motif Investing into Future Bright because of the customization capacity and fee efficiency, along with the ability to buy fractional shares of stocks have given Motif a competitive advantage.
“Future Bright is trying to bring that innovation to this investor community,” Almlie said.
Recently, some have voiced concern with the state of North Dakota’s investment community in regards to policy barriers and lack of risky capital investments. Almlie said he sees possibility for Future Bright to venture into the private equity space in the future to increase the amount of liquidity for startups in the area; he acknowledges, however, that “there is a lot of legwork required.”
“Outside of Arthur Ventures, which really serves a ‘later stage’ niche than most local startups fit into, I think there is a void in Fargo-Moorhead for startup capital,” he said. “Private equity is something Future Bright may consider in the future as an extension of its core business.”
Future Bright is located at 935 37th Ave. South, Suite 128, Moorhead, Minnesota. The company is registered in the state of Minnesota and is also authorized to provide advisory services in North Dakota and Arizona.
Photos courtesy from Ross Almlie and 1 Million Cups Fargo.