Management

Ten to Watch in 2022: Ben Cruikshank

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When Ben Cruikshank saw the institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies just two years ago, he began learning all he could about the new asset class. 

At the time, he was working in client strategies at a startup launched by asset management firm Stone Ridge, called Flourish, providing cash management tools for advisors. He saw Stone Ridge’s success with the New York Digital Investment Group, which provided institutions the ability to buy crypto. 

Cruikshank, who previously worked in sales at Betterment, felt that if retail advisors were given similar management tools, they would welcome the chance to bring digital currencies to their clients. 

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When Stone Ridge sold Flourish to MassMutual in late 2020, the firm had already bought $100 million in Bitcoin from NYDIG. As the sale closed, Cruikshank oversaw the decision to bring crypto onto the Flourish platform.

“It was unanimous,” he said, of internal discussions on whether to include a crypto offering at Flourish.  

In September, Cruikshank oversaw the launch of Flourish Crypto, which now sits inside MassMutual, the sixth largest insurance company in the world, with more than 7,000 financial professionals and $554 billion in assets—a testament to the mainstream adoption of the technology. Flourish expects its employee headcount to easily surpass 50 by the end of the year.

Since then, advisor requests for demos and service have stretched the firm to the limit. “We had high expectations for launch,” he said. “We have dramatically exceeded those expectations. We have a significant number of advisory firms already signed up.” 

In the first week of business, he had “multiple multi-billion-dollar firms” signing up for service, he said. Some of these undisclosed firms exceeded $50 billion in AUM, he said. Flourish is not disclosing firms using its services, but across all its business lines, it is currently working with “about 420 RIA firms, which collectively represent well over $1 trillion in total assets under management,” according to a company spokesperson. The average size of firms using Flourish Crypto is over $1 billion in AUM. 

“It was just really clear that the thesis was right,” he said. “Folks are really looking for the right crypto solution.” 

“A lot of advisors are pushing into offering more holistic products and services,” he explained. “Our focus as a team is to bring RIAs innovative access to financial products that they don’t otherwise have good access to today.” Crypto topped the list, he said.

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