Inspire Advisors was recently highlighted by Financial Advisor IQ in the excellent article below.
Faith-Based Advisors Seek Freedom to Be Their Full Selves at Work
By Brianna Monsanto|September 11, 2023
When Robert Netzly, chief executive officer of Inspire Investing, became interested in biblically responsible investing — a strategy that uses biblical morals and values to guide investment choices — and found that his then broker–dealer lacked products that aligned with this strategy, he felt he had two options: leave the industry or go independent.
Netzly picked the latter, leaving Wells Fargo Advisors to start what became Inspire Advisors in 2011. Inspire Advisors now oversees about $520 million in assets under management, growing tremendously over the past decade, but Netzly said he still sees Christian financial advisors facing the same hurdles.
“We hear all the time from Christian financial advisors at big firms all over, especially the bigger firms, that they just don't have access to the [faith-based] product,” said Netzly.
Lack of access is one of several challenges faith-based advisors encounter as they look to provide services in a way that feels authentic to their identity. In a secular-dominated industry, faith-based advisors are also often tasked with finding firms that align with their values and allow them to bring their full selves to work.
“When you're a financial advisor working at a secular firm and you want to pray with a client and your manager reprimands you afterwards, that causes stress,” said Netzly. “If you're an advisor and you're wanting to teach a Bible study or do a seminar on biblical financial principles and your compliance department won't approve it, that's a problem.”
Those frictions can exist even at firms that cater to Christian advisors and clients.
For Michael Smith, a founding partner of Kingdom Focused Financial, a Dillsburg, Pennsylvania–based RIA, these pain points led him to start exploring his options. Smith earlier this year joined Inspire Advisors’ network after feeling that his sense of “individualism” was being constrained at his former firm, Thrivent Financial.
“I felt that my former broker-dealer was really asking us to cloud our faith and incorporate theirs,” said Smith. “I don’t want to have to hide who I am, and I felt like that was having to start to happen.”
Thrivent, which has Lutheran roots but whose members in 2013 voted to extend services to all Christians, declined to comment on Smith’s departure. The firm describes itself as a “holistic financial services organization driven by a higher purpose,” and its asset management arm offers faith-based managed portfolios, according to its website.
Not only are faith-based advisors tasked with finding a partner that is a right fit, but they often must do so in an industry with significantly fewer options for these advisors. In researching and finalizing what firm would be his next partner, a process he says took nearly two years, Smith found that the pool of candidates to choose from was shallow.
“[I]t really is more difficult for the individual practitioners [to] branch out and feel confident in being on their own because there just isn't the same amount of places,” said Smith.
Matthew Daugavietis, a financial planner who broke away from Ameriprise Financial to join Inspire in 2022, said Inspire immediately piqued his interest, though he acknowledged that suitable options were scant.
“There might be literally dozens, if not hundreds of other RIAs to consider affiliating with. In the faith-based space, there's far fewer,” he said.
Secular options also remain limited for faith-based advisors as some firms may promote stances on social issues that don’t align with their religious beliefs or those of their clients.
“Many of these firms are openly advocating for all sorts of political or social agendas that are just purely unbiblical and then deeply concerning to advisors who are working at those firms,” said Netzly. “They don't want their energies going to fund a company who's going to extreme ends to promote things that are just completely antithetical to their deeply held beliefs.”
Despite these challenges, faith-based advisors remain confident that the demand for their services will grow in upcoming years, especially as younger generations begin to seek out socially conscious investing options.
Daugavietis sees biblically responsible investing walking lockstep with the growing embracement of environmental, social and governance investing. “[I]nvestors are going to start to ask for it and look for it.”
Recognizing this demand, the faith-based industry hopes to continue to see progress in the range of products and partnership options available at their disposal to help level the playing field for their services.
“There's a whole lot more to go,” said Netzly. “There really does need to be a [faith-based option] in all these categories so that faith-based investors are well equipped.”