10 Influential Blogs for Financial Advisors

Good list here with some familiar names including Barry Ritholtz, Josh Brown, Tom Brakke, Robert Seawright and Michael Kitces.  I’m also bunched in there with some quotes about why I moved increasingly away from the wirehouse business model:

Roche says he fell into the industry after working at Merrill Lynch for three years managing $500 million for clients, and becoming “disillusioned with the business model.”

“I had hoped I could build a business model that was more client-driven, so I started my own business as a registered independent advisor. Now, I do pure consulting for institutions and retail clients, and conduct macro research.”

Like many other bloggers on this list, Roche’s website, Pragmatic Capitalism, grew out of the financial crisis. Where did the traction come from? “I was extremely worried about the housing bubble between 2005 and 2008. My background has come from understanding the monetary system, getting down into the mechanics of the banking system, and I viewed what was going on in a different way from other people.”

He continues: “I started working from the premise that the government was misinterpreting what was going on in the crisis because the diagnosis of the problem was wrong and the response was therefore misguided.”

One of the reasons Roche transitioned to becoming an independent advisor was because of his perceived conflict of interests that exist at big Wall Street firms. “Those big firms are revenue-driven – they’re fee generators. They’re not able to do what’s in their clients’ best interest – a lot of the time the best interest of the client is to reduce fees,” he notes. According to Roche, the financial advisor model needs to change, with more and more advisors needing to act as independent consultants or fee-only advisors. “I think the conflict comes mostly from the big wirehouses: public companies that need to maximize profits – profits largely derived from generating fees from clients,” he concludes.


Got a comment or question about this post? Feel free to use the Ask Cullen section, leave a comment in the forum or send me a message on Twitter.

Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • MG

    PragCap on the Map…..congratulations

  • http://alephblog.com David Merkel

    She interviewed me as well. I guess I got left on the cutting room floor. Well, good for you, Cullen. I mean it.

  • http://brown-blog-5.blogspot.com/ Tom Brown


  • Stephen

    “Roche says he fell into the industry after working at Merrill Lynch for three years MUGGING $500 million for clients, and becoming “disillusioned with the business model.”

  • Pantmaker

    Cullen what is your relationship with TD Ameritrade? Is it a necessary piece of the puzzle with Orcam or just ad revenue to help pay the bills? With my browser tonight, (and that may be the answer) your site looks like a Cullen needle in an Ameritrade haystack.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    I don’t have a relationship with AMTD. All ads on the site are outsourced to Investing Channel, the ad company that handles my inventory. And I know the ads are annoying, but they cover the basic costs of running the site. In other words, ads keep the internet free. I know they’re an inconvenience so sorry.

  • Nils

    Somehow that conscience comes right after financial security ;)

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    I was 25 years old when I left Merrill. I wasn’t financially secure by any means.

  • Stephen

    I know mine did. ;)

    Indeed I enjoy getting religion now I can afford it ;)

    Teasing only.

  • Nils

    Clearly you were doing it wrong ;)

  • nate

    I’ve been at ML for 1 and 1/2 years (now 25 years old), and I already want out. That probably wouldnt be the case if I had $500m AUM, howd you manage that in 3 years before age 25?

  • Johnny Evers

    The business is full of people who write their own press releases … and blogs and financial publications who print them without checking.
    No way he was running $500 million in AUM at age 25.

  • The Undergrad
  • brazzo

    thanks for sharing the views of how the diagnosis of the problem was wrong and keeping it simple and didatic for your readers.

  • http://bit.ly/10dDL7T Paula Vasan

    I wrote the piece 10 Influential Blogs for Financial Advisors piece. Really interesting to hear this discussion from Cullen’s loyal readers. Thank you.

  • http://brown-blog-5.blogspot.com/ Tom Brown

    Great article. How many blogs did you consider initially before narrowing it to 10?

  • Steve W

    I agree that it’s difficult to believe that Cullen could have gathered $500 million of client assets to manage in just 3 years at ML — but it’s possible. I’d also point out that the article says he “mamanged $500 million” — it does not say he landed that much in new client assets. Cullen is clearly a smart guy, so he may well have partnered up with a more senior advisor who let him manage the portfolios. Cullen’s work on Pragcap speaks for itself, I don’t need proof of his run at ML.

  • Johnny Evers

    It wasn’t even three years. More like 21 months. No big deal, but these things are pretty easy to check. And somehow I doubt a senior ML advisor would give $500 million to a college grad. (Well, that could explain why the firm went broke!)

  • Boomer

    You need to cut yourself some slack Cullen. The information you offer, FOR FREE, is some of the best that can be found anywhere. Shame on anyone for complianing.

  • Gary-UK

    Journalists, bloggers, consultants, economists….loyal readers, do trust these people to lead you to wealth and happiness.

    Buy now, just buy, it’s different this time…..

  • Steve W

    Read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis and you’ll learn why ML went broke. It wasn’t Cullen’s fault! :)

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    No, I didn’t raise $500MM right out of college at Merril (who could without amazing connections??). I worked with a team of guys who gave me control of the bottom 40% of the book (tons of loose accounts). It was a pretty cushy arrangement for a new advisor and my partners were amazing guys. I was lucky to have stumbled into it. But that doesn’t mean I was satisified with it….

  • Johnny Evers

    Lewis is awesome. Most of his books about the financial crisis put into layman’s terms what happens when homeowners, governments, banks, brokerage houses, investors, etc., borrow huge sums of money that they can never pay back … because some kids out of Harvard told them there was no risk.
    P.S. How do you know it’s a bubble? When college grads get $200 million to manage because it’s considered loose change.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    Merrill’s training program is probably the best in the nation. It’s one of the things they’re best known for. I probably knew more about the business 6 months in than 95% of the general pubic. But, like just about every comment you leave here, you just presume I am ignorant about the topic at hand as you voraciously defend your ideology through vague generalizations. I don’t know why you insist on attacking me in this backhanded manner, but it’s getting old. I am not going to keep warning you every few weeks to be somewhat respectful and a bit more open-minded.

  • Johnny Evers

    Hey, you trumpet your experience managing $500 million, you’re gonna get your bubble popped a bit.
    The comment wasn’t really directed at you, anyway, more the absurdity of letting young people on Wall Street manage so much money.
    To your credit, you realized it was a racket and got out.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    Yes, and it’s absurd for you to just generalize that a young guy isn’t capable of managing large sums of money. As if the old guard on Wall Street is any better? The older guys in my firm were all transactional based and depended on firm revenue by pitching a specific product. The young guys were all put into a training program that tought and encouraged them to be broader thinkers and financial planners. But you don’t know any of that because you’re not interested in understanding anything about any of this. You just want to paint Wall Street as the bad guy in the room so you can spread your populist message ay any cost. It’s absurd.

    Instead of making these populist/vague assertions why don’t you try to be a bit more open-minded and actually digest some of the content here for a change? I am tired of correcting every single comment you make because you REFUSE to learn the basics of the money system and the financial business. I know you’re skeptical of financial people (for whatever reason), but this broad assertion you make that we’re all bad people out to get everyone is ridiculous. I spend SO much of my time trying to educate people, responding to comments, exploring ideas and every day you attack that process by leaving the same old tired comments. You insult me and the goal of this site when you make these absurd assertions day in and day out. Please stop doing it or I will just stop publishing your comments. Thanks.

  • SS

    Cullen is one of the most self deprecating and humble financial guys I read. I can’t remember the last time he bragged about anything here. I don’t know how much success he’s had, but his credibility with regards to understanding the system speaks for itself. Of course, you don’t understand what Cullen says so you don’t appreciate it as much as some others day. I don’t know why he still puts up with you. And you making it personal like this is a low life way to go.

  • Ted

    Haters gonna hate…

  • DanH


    How many financial experts of cullen’s caliber run FREE websites and spend countless hours answering the same basic questions for people trying to learn? I swear I’ve seen cullen answer the same exact question 100 times with the same patience he always has for nasty people like you. You seem to spend your entire day here commenting yet you’re so fast to attack him. Get some perspective man!

  • Anonymous

    Running anything for 3 “only” years is not statistically valid. Regression to the mean? I do not think that means what you think it means.

  • LVG

    You’re such a pos Johnny. You come here every day leaving hundreds of comments proving that you didn’t read or understand half of what Cullen wrote. My guess is Cullen is half your age, twice as smart and your insecurity about knowing that is driving you to troll his website nonstop. Take your envy and unproductive attitude and get lost. And let’s let Cullen spend more than a few decades in the business before we judge his career.

  • hangemhi

    And the biggest loser troll of them all – Gary UK sticks his fat head in the ring. Go away. You’ve never added anything to any discussion. Obviously you lost all your money listening to some con artist, and have decided to come to one of the most balanced and sales-free sites on the internet to take out your anger. Seriously…. GO AWAY.

  • Johnny Evers

    Hey, LVG.
    I was just doing some simple fact checking. He said he spent three years at ML managing $500 million for clients. That doesn’t hold up.
    He doesn’t get the absurdity of letting a young kid go anywhere near that much money.
    And then he defends ML’s training program (which fails people out at a 90 percent rate, by the way) as teaching people how to be ‘broad thinkers and financial planners.’ Gee, those broad thinkers bankrupted the company with their MBS bets.
    The marketplace of ideas is a tough place. Lighten up and enjoy it.

  • http://www.orcamgroup.com Cullen Roche

    Daniel, do you mind if I call you Daniel? Yes, I know precisely who you are, but unlike you, I am not going to try to publicly smear your name, attack the firm you work for or misrepresent what you’ve said. I have absolutely ZERO desire to attack you or anyone else personally. That is the very last thing I try to use this site for. Instead, I am just going to ask you kindly to stop misrepresenting what is written here. And even if I was that kind of jerk (which I am not) I wouldn’t do it anonymously from behind a computer screen where I think I am showing the world what “tough place” this is. Unlike you, I am an open book. I am a very public person and I try my very best to be as open and honest with everyone here as I possibly can be.

    So, first of all, my bio says “Prior to establishing Orcam Mr. Roche founded his own investment partnership in 2005 after several years working at Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management where he helped oversee $500MM+ in assets under management.” That’s all fairly clear. If you want to misrepresent that to mean three or that I managed it all then that’s on you. I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to hide and I give everyone the straight scoop here when they ask.

    And the guys in Merrill’s FA group didn’t “bankrupt” the firm. The firm went under because the trading unit was leveraged up. If you knew anything about what you’re attacking you’d know that Merrill has two distinctly different businesses. The FA side is NOT the investment banking side. But you’re just lashing out without actually understanding what you’re talking about. I am tired of your bad attitude, defensiveness and now misplaced personal attacks. I won’t have anonymous cowards trolling the website here misrepresenting everything. I think we both know your time here is probably over. I appreciate your input, but this very personal sort of commentary starts to cross the line. I don’t recall ever doing anything to piss you off. I’ve been nothing but kind and tolerant with you since the day you first came here. I’ve answered HUNDREDS of your questions despite your very personal attacks at times. I honestly don’t get it. I have no idea what would warrant your persistent attacks. If you want to think I am some sort of bad person then be my guest. Just do it elsewhere. Thanks.

  • SS

    Cullen, my advice – learn to stop trying to be nice to people and just start banning them immediately. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and head aches in the future. Better to nip these guys in the bud right off the bat rather than letting them entrench themselves here. The more public you get the more haters you’re gonna have. FYI.

  • Rob

    “According to Roche, the financial advisor model needs to change, with more and more advisors needing to act as independent consultants or fee-only advisors. ”

    This is my 20th year in the financial services industry.

    I can state without reservation that the idea of fee only being some sort of panacea or utopian way of doing business is just hogwash.

    Over my tenure I have met many wonderfully talented, educated and client focused commission folks. I’ve also met snakes on the commission side. I’ve met a large number of uneducated, ill-equipped fee only folks who have no business helping clients with their finances. I’ve also met fee only folks who are wonderfully talented, educated and client focused.

    An individual’s business or compensation model is absolutely not an indicator of talent, education, experience, ability or focus on client needs.

  • Makaya

    First time I’m commenting here, but long time reader. Cullen, you’re doing a great job and your effort is most appreciated.

    Thanks for everything and keep up the good work. Don’t listen (or even bother) with the few low-life haters that keep polluting your blog. They’re simply not worth your time and patience.

  • http://brown-blog-5.blogspot.com/ Tom Brown

    So having “haters” is a sign of success? I guess I should feel pretty good that someone was on here posting as “Tom Clown” the other day then! ;)

  • pantmaker

    I’m not complaining at all…I love this site…and your independence as a thinker. I would love to help you figure out a way to avoid having to promote potential competition via ad revenue. Hey…it is what it is.

    I do hope you never resort to the circle jerk of strategic congratulatory back slapping of which the blogs clustered around Abnormal Returns and Stocktwits seem guilty . What a chorus of buffoonery that whole deal has become.

  • Steve W


    Cullen is right on the mark with his response to you regarding ML and the separation at that firm between FAs and investment banking. Also, the 90% failure rate for FA trainees you cite is likely not much different at Morgan Stanley or UBS. The harsh reality is that being an FA is not for everyone, it’s not easy — it’s a sales career. All sales careers with very high income potential are difficult.

    Cullen has been very patient with you and generous of his time in providing thoughtful responses to you questions, including your rants.

  • Steve W

    I intended to reply to Johnny Evers, not Tom Brown. Sorry for the goof.