Photography by Tom McKenzie

There are two ways to ­develop a new product: improve upon an existing one or come up with something that’s never been done. Tom Daley’s brainchild, The Advisor Center, vigorously defines the latter.

“I saw that I could create the destiny for financial advisors. Clearly, there was a gap in the marketplace,” says Daley, CEO and founder of the innovative Web-based recruiting service, where FAs can anonymously search for a new job or a BD connection.

Debuting last December, the Center has attracted more than 16,000 users, according to Daley; and 225 advisors, whose identify has been verified by FINRA, have signed up. Broker-dealers, custodians, branch managers and the like strut their firms’ stuff on individual microsites that they design and maintain. Companies pay an annual subscription charge and a fee based on the FA’s production when a deal is made. So far, there have been five such success stories.

The time is perfect for his idea, the extroverted Daley, 48, enthuses. “The cost of recruiting is skyrocketing. Everybody is fighting for the same pool for recruits, but it’s getting harder and harder to access them. They’re kind of closing themselves off because they’re getting bombarded by third-party recruiters and firms’ recruiting efforts.”

Subscribers to the Center include Commonwealth Financial Network, LPL Financial, Pershing and TD Ameritrade.

“With the market doing well now, advisors aren’t anxious to move,” says Andrew Daniels, managing principal of business development, Commonwealth. “But in this time of relative satisfaction, The Advisor Center is a good seed-planter for down the line when things maybe are less comfortable. An advisor can browse without having a ‘salesman’ come tripping over himself to sell them a car.”

The Center, which was funded totally by Daley, potentially cuts recruiting costs by up to 60%, he says. It is advertising-free—so there’s no playing favorites.

Based in the Chicago suburb of Lake Zurich, Daley has a strong background in recruiting. He was 12 years with LPL and by the time he left, in 2009, had become a senior vice president in charge of recruiting for eastern branches. Keen on working more directly with advisors, he opened his own shop with two partners, Bull Market Recruiting.

But he soon realized there had to be a better way to connect FAs with firms.

“Everyone was focused on lead generation: How do I get in front of the financial advisor? But no one was focused on the methodology to help advisors better discover opportunities or go through due diligence on the front end,” he says.

Leveraging online technology was the answer. “We’re the first place where an advisor can go to one location and look without being seen. You can start [seeking] opportunities without putting your résumé on the Street. That empowers the advisor,” Daley points out.

The Center, which validates that each person who signs up is a bona fide financial advisor, allows FAs to do homework with their laptops by strolling the Center to look for opportunities undetected.

First of all, they can gather recruiting materials; more importantly, through an internal messaging function and an identity-masking code name, they can engage with firms. The system tells the BD only the state in which the FA is located, the type of channel they operate in—wirehouse, independent, and so on—and a range of their advisory experience (such as 9–12 years, for example). The FA has control over revealing who they are.

For the firms, the Center provides state-of-the-art direct-marketing entrée and an array of potential recruits nationwide.

“Tom came in to present to us with boundless positive energy that we found compelling,” says Daniels, with whom Daley, in his Bull Market Recruiting days, placed advisors. Now, with The Advisor Center, Commonwealth maintains a page that’s all about the BD; its branch managers wanting to woo advisors to their practices have separate microsites.

So far, 17 verified million-dollar-plus advisors have registered with the Center. Average verified production is $451,000, and 83% of verified advisors have a decade or more of experience in the industry.

Daley is a passionate entrepreneur. “This allows me to make an impact on the business and an opportunity to try to help transform an industry that needs it,” he says.

A Boston native, Daley grew up in Florham Park, N.J. After earning a degree in accounting from Seton Hall University in 1987, he joined American Express’s two-year training program in New York City and worked his way up to finance and corporate strategy analyst at IDS (now Ameriprise) in Minneapolis. During that Twin Cities stint, he picked up a master’s in finance from the University of St. Thomas.

In 1997 he joined LPL, where first in Minneapolis, then in Chicago, he talked up the broker-dealer to advisors looking to go independent or switch BDs. Launching Bull Market, Daley shifted gears and became an advisor’s advisor.

His “best-ever recruit,” he says, was wife Ursula, an in-house LPL attorney-turned-advisor in 2003 who, with two partners, has her own firm, EnRich Private Wealth Management.

Daley’s chief aim with The Advisor Center is to unlock opportunities. “I think about all the advisors sitting in firms who are unhappy and not sure what their next step will be or who are somewhat paralyzed about how to go about gathering information. The Center allows them to raise their hand and start exploring without having to worry about being discovered.”

He continues. “Even in the year 2013, if an advisor gets caught trying to gather information, they can be terminated and their book of business turned over. At LPL, I had experiences of advisors going to lunch with me to do due diligence and their firms finding out. Their doors would be locked. They were done.”