If there’s one thing that advisors cannot stand, it’s uncertainty. So imagine that you were a representative affiliated with one of the ING broker/dealers over the past year or so: uncertainty was your constant companion. That may have all come to an end, however, with the February 1 announcement that Lightyear Capital, a private equity firm based in New York, had completed its acquisition of the three independent broker/dealers that formerly constituted the ING Advisors Network–Financial Network, Multi-Financial, and PrimeVest–and renamed the group Cetera Financial, though each individual B/D will retain its name.
Lightyear’s chairman and CEO is Donald Marron, who headed Paine Webber for 20 years and then was chairman of UBS America after the brokerage firm’s merger with PaineWebber; he is chairman of Cetera’s board. The CEO of Cetera Financial group is Valerie Brown, who replaced John Simmers as CEO of ING Advisors Network last year after Simmers’s retirement,
We caught up with Brown and with new hire Barnaby Grist, formerly of Schwab Institutional, in a telephone interview in late February.
First, Brown explains that the Cetera name–from the Latin for “other”–is a reflection of “our commitment to our field organization as well as to their clients, to put them first.” Now operating as a “truly independent” shop, Brown said “we can be more nimble and responsive,” but also that “we’re committed to keeping those three broker/dealers as the separate and distinct value propositions they have been in the marketplace.” The benefits of the Lightyear acquisition are in the scale of the three broker/dealers, but more importantly in “strong access to capital that will fuel our growth in recruiting,” in helping advisors to buy books of business to expand their practices and helping those who are ready to retire to sell their books, and by investing in the shared platform “more deeply than we have historically.”
When asked if Lightyear, the parent, would finance the acquisition, Brown answers that Cetera itself will be doing the financing. “The whole issue around capital scarcity,” she says, “has been removed with the acquisition.”