Inside Exchange: Matt Middleton | ETF Trends

Every week, Evan Harp sits down with one of the founders of Exchange to learn more about them, their perspective on life, and what they hope Exchange can bring to the industry. This week, he sits down with Matt Middleton, CEO of Advisor Circle.

Matthew Middleton is the former growth strategy director at Informa and co-creator of the successful financial advisor conference, Wealth/Stack. He advises organizations on how to create recognizable brands while turning ideas into profitable businesses

Evan Harp, ETF Trends: What is something surprising about you?

Matt Middleton, Advisor Circle: All right, so when I was younger, teens, I was a very big sneaker head before being a sneaker head was cool. Before there were StockX and there wasn’t actually a tradable market for them. I used to sit outside of NikeTown in Manhattan overnight with my brother and my friend, and we would go and wait in line for the latest Jordans. And at one point, I think I collected over 185 or so sneakers. I didn’t grow up in a big house. You could imagine how my my mother felt about that. Especially since three quarters of those sneakers, I never wore. Fun fact about me! [Laughs.]

Harp: What inspires you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Middleton: Well, I think what gives me a little bit of my drive, personally… So I grew up in Yonkers, New York. My mother and father moved in with each other at 16, helped to raise my aunt, really didn’t have much of a support system or big family at that. So they had to grow up really quick. They had my brother at 20, me at 22, and my sister at 24. We didn’t have much, but we had love. And so I always came home to loving parents. I think that’s really what gives me personal and professional drive, is the grittiness of, you don’t have to have many resources, going into certain things. But if you have this willingness to succeed, and to continue to focus, no matter how hard it gets, you’ll be successful. I think I get that from my parents, and I’m just very fortunate that I certainly did not have to make the sacrifices that they had, because they did that for us. Just looking to pay it forward to my kids, and of course it influences how I think about operating a business today.

Harp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Middleton: I would love to be a designer. I’m fascinated by good design. I think it has a way to transcend to brand. I’m really big on this emotional connection to businesses and to things and the ways in which designers, through colors and font types and all of that, really humanize a logo or a brand. A brand means so much more based on that design. I will tell you, I cannot draw a stick figure to save my life. So it’s funny I say that here, but I am just fascinated. I think it’s critically important to any good business. Any good content messaging starts with good branding first. I would love to be a designer if I had that type of skills.

Harp: Why did you want to launch Exchange?

Middleton: I was exposed to the ETF space back in 2015 at my previous company, and I had the ability to work with a lot of the people that we’re building Exchange with back then. And before that, I had worked in the FinTech space, in and around financial services, but didn’t really know much about the ETF industry. When I got into it, very quickly I was welcomed, and I realized how strong the community was, and how innovative the ETF wrapper and product was. So when you start to translate what the ETF product is to the industry, you could start to see what the power is of an industry event to connect that community. And so I’m excited about being the platform that brings that community together, affords us the opportunity to push the boundaries on what the industry could do, as well as the perception of the industry to the advisors and investors of the world. There’s really no shortage of excitement and innovation happening in this space right now. So yeah, super stoked about launching Exchange! That’s my passion. It’s just congregating, gathering people together.

Harp: What are you most looking forward to about Exchange?

Middleton: Getting together in person with everyone? [Laughs.]

No, look, I think, for us, we’ve really looked at the event experience and having huge history and creating what was once the world’s largest ETF event of the past, and now looking at everything that’s taking place over the COVID time period, right, where events were non-existent. You start to see events coming back, and you start to question, “Well, how are they? What is that identity when they come back? Have they changed, or is it the same way they used to be?”

I love the fact that we’ve created Exchange through this pandemic timeframe where it’s new, it’s fresh, we’ve looked at it from a different perspective, in terms of content — no panels, formatting is more engaging — I think the audience will really enjoy it.

From an experience standpoint, experience is in the name, we’re particularly focused on the experience at every level. So the attendee experience, the sponsor experience, the experience of the brands. As I alluded to earlier, how I’m so focused on the design and how that can humanize brands, I think our industry as a whole is going to come a long way in the next couple of years of establishing a personality to their brand that really wasn’t afforded to them before due to compliance hurdles, and other things. I’ve started to see that loosen up. So I think Exchange, this time around, will be that first experience for folks to say, “Wow, this is different.” It’s a new face to our industry. And yeah, I’m just super excited to see that come to life and also connect with everyone in the community.

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