One day after Ameriprise Financial said it was looking to sell Securities America, experts were asking which firm was likely to buy the troubled broker-dealer and at what price.
Ameriprise said Monday that it took an after-tax charge of $77 million, or $0.30 a share, for a previously disclosed legal matter at Securities America. It also said it “has decided to identify an appropriate buyer for [Securities America]. A sale would allow SA to focus on growth opportunities in the independent channel and would allow Ameriprise to devote its resources to the Ameriprise branded-advisor business.”
“This is not a surprise,” said Danny Sarch (left) of Leitner Sarch Consultants, a recruiting firm in White Plains, N.Y., in a phone interview with AdvisorOne on Tuesday. “Ameriprise never brought Securities America fully into the fold. It’s always been run separately, so a spin-off seemed inevitable.”
Ameriprise – which has 9,653 advisors – bought Securities America – with 1,846 reps today – in 1998, about 14 years after the IBD was founded in Omaha, Neb. Total assets for Securities America were $26.3 billion as of March 31, and the broker-dealer had net client inflows of $63 million in the most recent period.
“Ameriprise is a large company, primarily involved in the manufacture of annuities and insurance products, the manufacture of investment-management products and the sale of these products to consumers by captive and semi-captive advisors,” said Chip Roame (left), head of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, in a phone interview on Monday. These operations, he adds, produce higher margins than those of an independent broker-dealer.
Plus, Sarch points out, Ameriprise – by electing to keep its operations separate from Securities America, has not allowed the IBD to benefit from economies of scale. “It’s had separate branding, advertising, oversight, compliance and wholesaling,” he said.
As for specific firms that might be interested in buying Securities America, “The obvious industry buyers include LPL Financial, Cetera, Jackson National Life, Ladenburg & Thalman and Advanced Equities,” Roame said. Some private equity firms could bid on the IBD, the consultant said.
Clearing, however, could be a sticking point. “Securities America, I believe, clears through National Financial [and Pershing], which might impact the list,” said Roame.
LPL Financial, which reported earnings on Monday, is a self-clearing IBD. “We do not comment on speculation regarding acquisition strategy,” said Joseph Kuo, a spokesperson for the company, on Tuesday.
Plus, LPL just converted all of its acquisitions to its self-clearing platform “at a large time and expense cost,” Roame said. “My guess is that another firm will want such a third-party clearing relationship, and since LPL will not, the other firm will bid higher.”
For the 1,800-plus advisors with Securities America, Ameriprise’s decision to spin off the IBD puts them in a quandary: Do they wait to see which firm they are sold to, or do they strike out on their own before such a deal takes place?