Getting Ahead in Crypto Education, With Amber McLeod

To create the best possible relationship between advisers and their clients, an in-depth understanding of crypto is required.

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Your Host

On this episode

“If you’re just now getting started, you’re behind.”

“On Purpose” host Tyrone Ross is joined by Amber McLeod, director of customer success at Onramp Invest for a conversation on adviser education in all things crypto. Whether an adviser is starting at ground zero, ready to trade or a full-blown crypto believer, there is always more to learn and a bevy of educational resources to draw from.

In the crypto investment class, clients also bring varying levels of understanding, from those who are wary of the volatility to those who are ready to jump in but aren’t sure where to start. Sometimes, advisers can even be behind their advisers when it comes to understanding the complexities of crypto.

To create the best possible relationship between advisers and their clients, an in-depth understanding of crypto is required, as well as an innovative and inquisitive mindset, ready to think outside the traditional RIA box.

This episode was produced, announced and edited by Michele Musso with additional production support from Eleanor Pahl. Our theme song is “Walk with Swag.”

Transcript

Tyrone Ross

All right, welcome to the latest episode of the “On Purpose” podcast. I am your host, Tyrone Ross, CEO and co-founder of Onramp Invest. Incredibly special episode today, lots of pivots and moving along behind the scenes, but I brought along a special guest with me, the Director of Customer Success at Onramp, Amber McLeod. How are you, queen?

Amber McLeod

I’m doing well, happy to be here.

Tyrone Ross

Happy to be here in short notice, thank you. Thank you for grabbing the microphone and getting ready to chat. So, lots of ways to take this conversation, definitely want to talk about, first, you tell the folks who you are, and then we can get into the dumpster fire that has been helping build Onramp every day and how you smooth things out. And ultimately, again, what you’re hearing on the front lines from advisers who were walking into a new asset class as you’re learning it yourself. So, I think you have a very unique perspective that I want to get to. So first, I will just give you the floor. So you can tell everyone who you are, and what makes you so special.

Amber McLeod

So again, Amber McLeod, I have had quite the history in the front lines, working in operations, supporting customer success and customer service. I have a particular interest and passion for creating processes and environments where we can help people succeed in whatever it is they want to see for their business. I guess that’s kind of a synopsis of where I came into Onramp, and what I wanted to do for the team and help with this mission that we have.

Tyrone Ross

Awesome. So starting there, you’ve moved around a bit since you’ve come into the company, and starting in being a project manager, right, and helping us just figure out what we’re doing at any second of the day. I think that has been helpful, because you probably know more of the business than I do, to be honest. So talk about that, like first coming in, developing those processes, and then ultimately, moving to where you are now, which is literally being on the front lines and talking to advisors as they engage with us for the first time. What has that journey been like over the last what, how many months now? Eight, nine months?

Amber McLeod

Eight months.

Tyrone Ross

Eight months, wow.

Amber McLeod

I’m like a vet. So, I think my journey has been very unique, but just so vital to what I’m doing right now. Starting with working with the development team, the engineers, the product, understanding where the vision was, for the product, the nuances of what we needed to do, why we were collecting the specific information that we had to, was just so, so vital for me to understand this space, to understand the business and what we were trying to accomplish. And one of the things that I think also is very unique in my experience, and going from kind of like the backend and building to front end and supporting advisors is we talk a lot about the challenges and what exists in the traditional space now, and where we want it to go. So, having the ability to sit in and gain that knowledge was vital to what I’m doing now. And honestly, gave me a really good baseline or foundation in supporting the advisors.

Tyrone Ross

But let’s stay right there. So what was the hardest thing, right? Because obviously, your knowledge of crypto was just me talking about bitcoin all the damn time. But so there was a steep learning curve, right? And, you know, the learning curve of crypto, learning curve of being an early-stage startup, which is incredible, nothing prepares you for that, right? That’s just the truth, not even having children, probably the closest thing. But talk about that, what were some of the things that were extremely difficult? And then other things that you kind of fell right into, which again, I guess the love of process was easy, because we really didn’t have too many.

Amber McLeod

It was a combination of a few things. So I very quickly had to, thanks to Eric Ervin, he dumped on my front step a whole slew of material for me to get caught up within the space and understanding product, and what kind of product we were trying to build. So while we were in the process of trying to build and trying to, you know, cultivate these processes, I was also trying to learn this space at the same time. There were a lot of things going on at once. And I think one of the parts that was easiest to kind of pick up on and understand was like the vision ultimately, that you and Eric had for, for what the space needs to be. That was probably the easiest part to interpret. When I saw what you guys were trying to build and I understood the story, it was very easy to fall in alignment with what we needed to do. Probably the most challenging part of it all is like the mindset, right? We talk about being innovative, we talk about trying to find new ways, or new processes to make the experience better for the client and the advisor. But it’s so easy to fall back into what you know, or what you’re most comfortable with. So challenging yourself to think outside of the box, challenging yourself to look at an issue and trying to find a solution that is both beneficial to the client in the advisor, and something that we can build is probably the constant challenge. We got all these great ideas, but ultimately, when it comes to building it, the infrastructure is not always easy in practice. So I think that’s been the most challenging piece.

Tyrone Ross

Yep. And I think that is also one of the things that I say to folks is, just you to hear me apologize all the time, is that it’s so complicated what we’re doing in terms of having to know the RIA space, which you can get a PhD on, understanding RIAs alone, having to understand crypto, bring in the right mindset, you know, we’re essentially early, so we’re building the future. So, you have to be a really good storyteller and get people to understand that. So, I think for the purposes of this conversation, right, it’s advisors who listen to this, there are advisors who are probably skeptics, there are advisors who are way down the rabbit hole, like myself, and I think folks just want to know, right? And I always say, I’m a bad proxy, because I’ve been doing it forever. It’s hard for me to relate now to the advisor still trying to figure out the difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum. I understand, I relate, I’ve been there. But, being so far away, it’s really good to get people who are on the frontlines and talking to them. So, let’s spend a little bit of time there. What are you hearing and or seeing, right, in conversations with advisors who you talk to every day, in terms of what their concerns are, what they’re excited about? Because I think that’s what people really want to know, what questions are advisors asking, what are their concerns? And I don’t think there’s anybody better to answer that than you.

Amber McLeod

We have a running list of items that we constantly talk about with advisors and questions that they’re asking. So I guess, to start with questions that come up quite often, is implementation. Honestly, that’s really where it starts, like practice management, understanding how they’re supposed to be carrying these conversations out with their clients, understanding what this model looks like, as you know, a service that they’re offering, where do I start? We can go into the, you know, the 50 questions of what that means. But, that’s ultimately where we wind up with advisors is alright, I’m starting to understand the space, I see that you guys have the Academy for me. And that’s a great place to start. But as far as implementing this into my practice, what do I do next?

Tyrone Ross

And implementing into practice the other thing where, you know, shout Lacey, who just spoke to on the previous episode is billing, right? Billing being, you know, a big one, everything changes, right, your business model may have to change and everything else, as far as the Academy goes, right? And we’ve seen a lot of demand for the Academy, we’ve seen a lot of people just reach out, and hey, where do I get started? Is that what you see most? It’s the Academy, and then I’ll get to everything later? Also, I’m getting asked a lot, what are the size of the RIAs, or is it smaller RIAs, or is it... And I know for you, you’re learning that $5 billion is small. So, so talk, talk a little bit about that, about that segmentation of folks, you know, the behemoth advisors, what they’re looking for versus that nimble advisor, that could be $100 million or so.

Amber McLeod

I think that that one is actually pretty unique. What we discussed in the early days, what we expected versus what actually happened in reality, with our larger RIAs, we see that education is where they want to start. That’s where they feel most comfortable. They know that they have clients that have held away, they may have begun having conversations with them, but don’t really have a game plan on how they plan to implement outside of giving some preliminary advice to their clients. So the larger RIAs are still in that, “let’s learn a little bit more.” And then, what we’re seeing with the smaller RIAs, or the independents, is they’re ready to go. They are ready to trade. They’re serving a demographic that is right in the middle of where crypto is, that 20 to 40 year-old customer base, and they’re ready to trade. They have been a lot more eager and excited to jump on the platform, link held away accounts. They want to have access to more coins because they’ve been in these conversations with their clients for a little bit of time now.

Tyrone Ross

Alright, so we’re gonna do it now. We’re gonna have some real talk and I said the finance advisors listen, and I’m a financial advisor through and through, and I love my peers. But let’s just be honest, talk about some of the things that you get from advisors that are kind of a pain in the butt. Just so they know, again, it’s funny because we pick it each other, but what are some of the things that again, from having conversations or whatever, and, you know, advisors are a little pecuniary, they don’t really like to spend money, and very much process-oriented as well. But what are some of the interesting quirks, let’s call them that, that you hear from advisors when you talk to them? Not only in terms of crypto, but just, I’m sure you understand how guarded they are of their practice and their client.

Amber McLeod

Absolutely. I think that one of the things that I’ve learned in my journey with learning about crypto and all of the brilliant minds that I have around me, you cannot be so apprehensive about crypto, that you’re not even willing to learn and understand the asset class. That’s number one, I think that there is a lot of myth busting. That we are  trying to do, and making sure that advisors understand. Regardless of how you feel about crypto, you have to, have to, have to, to be a good fiduciary, be comfortable about talking about it. And we have some advisors who, quite frankly, they get on calls with us. And I think they almost want to convince us why crypto is so scary. So that part is a little challenging, especially with where the space is going. If you’re just now getting started, you’re behind. Right? This is an asset class where a lot of advisors are behind where their clients are. As education is concerned around the space, I think the other piece that gets a little challenging on the front end is they are almost expecting for us to give them the blueprint, right? Of walking into the space. And while we 100% as a whole, we’re working to educate, right? We want to give them education, we want to make sure there’s access for investors, there’s tools to help them along the way. But to be quite frank, there’s work that the advisor is going to have to do as well. How you plan to implement, what you need to do as far as updating documentation for your firm. Billing, but ultimately, it’s their responsibility. So I think we teeter back and forth there, right? Where advisors are expecting us to almost give them the syllabus and say, “All right, here you go, it’s ready to go,” where there’s going to be some work that they have to do on their end.

Tyrone Ross

Right. So last question here. And then I definitely want you to give your, you know, your contact information. So folks to reach out with questions, obviously. So, last question. Before we get to that, and we kind of wind things down here. Talk to me about what again, fresh perspective, walking into the space, really understanding very little about RIAs, and just enough to hold, you know, a two minute conversation on crypto. For those of us right, myself included, right, that are looking to educate advisors, that are looking to get them to understand and to be empathetic about what advisors are going through, put that hat on, right? What would you encourage all of us who are very much crypto hippies, and way in the future? And just how do you not see this? What would you caution all of us to pay attention to or do better to get folks to understand?

Amber McLeod

Well, I think creating an environment where the advisor feels comfortable saying what they don’t know, or what they don’t understand is, is number one. For myself, that was very important for me and my journey, I had to have conversations with you. And with Eric and with others on our team, where I’m like, “I don’t understand this at all. You got it, you got to explain it to me.” When you start with crypto, there’s just so many nuances and all these little pieces that you have to kind of put together to really understand the space and when you do that, it almost becomes less scary, if you will, to go down that rabbit hole of understanding the space. So, like you always say, it’s your especially infamous line spacing grace, right. We have to offer spacing grace to these advisors, and create an environment where they feel comfortable saying that they don’t know. The other piece is just being in tune with the conversations that you have with advisors. Some people suffer from imposter syndrome, right? They’d much rather pretend they know instead of saying they don’t know, and there’s no need to call someone out if you are if you understand where they are, but just start where they are, right? And then the other piece is always being willing to share whatever material you have that assisted you in your journey. Being generous with your knowledge, being generous with the resources that you have, I think is a huge help, what I think is most beneficial to the advisor, and ultimately them being a fiduciary for their client.

Tyrone Ross

Awesome. All right, so before I let you go, cuz I know you got your little meeting coming up, where can folks reach out to you if they’re listening to this and they have questions about Onramp, or you, or just customer success, where can they reach you in the most efficient manner?

Amber McLeod

So for any of us who’s interested in learning more about Onramp and the services that we offer, or just having a conversation about what the platform can do for their for their business, or they can reach us at info@onrampinvest.com, and if there are any specific questions for myself, feel free to email me at amber@onrampinvest.com.

Tyrone Ross

Awesome. Alright, so before we get us out of here, I have a couple of things to do. First of all, I have to shout out my whole CoinDesk family, all the advisors out there, you should be signed up for the Crypto for Advisors newsletter, subscribe to that immediately. If you remember those of you that attended the Bitcoin for Advisors conference, we sent you an email, if you will, that had a bunch of materials in there for you to prepare your practice. We also have an FA council so you’ll be able to read a lot in the newsletter from those on the FA council. So shout to them as well. Everyone is on the Advisory Council at CoinDesk with myself. So again, Crypto for Advisors newsletter, sign up for that. Also, again, you guys know if you made it this far into the program, nokidhungry.org If you found this beneficial in any way, please help me and my CoinDesk family do our part to make sure no child goes hungry in this country. It makes entirely no sense. Lastly, I will say this, we are at some incredible inflection points in the RA space and for wealth management. If you are a financial advisor listening to this, this is the best time in the history of our space to simply get educated. Sit down, get conversant. It is moving quickly and the time is now and we’re happy to be a resource myself, and everyone here at CoinDesk. So until the next one. We’ll see you all soon. I appreciate you.