LPL Chairman & CEO Mark Casady.

LPL Financial (LPLA) Chairman & CEO Mark Casady kicked off the firm’s annual advisor event Monday in San Diego, speaking to some 3,500 advisors and their staff, along with more than 2,500 other guests.

“I love the ‘can-do’ spirit of this country and of this company,” Casady said. “Last year, it was kind of messy in the middle. We’ve got a lot done, but it’s been difficult.”

The independent broker-dealer’s chief, along with other executives, made a case for how LPL is improving the performance of its corporate operations and technology platform. Last year, the IBD was hit by mounting legal and regulatory costs; its net revenues declined 4% in 2015 from the prior year, while its net income fell 2%.

“The journey never ends,” said Casady, “but we have rounded a corner through our heavy investments … and we want to have continuous improvements and forge ahead.”

(In the second quarter of 2016, LPL’s net income fell 5% year over year, and revenue dropped about 7% year; results in the period were down at many rival broker-dealers.)

“We have and will invest around the DOL [fiduciary] rule, automation and service. You can see we that we are not in the news as much,” he said, referring to earlier compliance and regulatory issues. “Our strategy is to make investments in you and drive your growth … We are not going to stop.”

Casady pointed to the fact that the firm works with more than 14,000 affiliated reps who have roughly $500 billion in client assets. “And we have no proprietary products, bank or other branded [entities]. We intend to keep it that way, since it gives us a unique position in the industry as a provider of objective financial advice.”

Compliance Push

“We do empathize with advisors,” said Chief Risk Officer Michelle Oroschakoff, who joined the firm in 2013 from Morgan Stanley.

“We come to the branches to assess processes and procedures, and that happens to us [when we are examined by] regulators and the internal audit department,” Oroschakoff explained. “We know what it feels nerve-wracking. We are all on the same page.”

She echoed this overview by describing the firm’s friendlier approach to risk management

“The days of finger-wagging by the compliance office are over,” the executive stated, winning applause from the audience.

She gave the example of one branch examiner who brought donuts into the office: “It’s all about the donuts.”

With advisors saying that branch exams had been the “biggest pain point” for them in the past, Oroshakoff said LPL is moving to make it a “great experience.”

The risk management team has been adding training and other enhancements to its service approach, getting the time it takes to answer the phone down to less than 30 seconds from around one minute a year ago. Most responses to advisors’ inquiries and requests are now processed over one business day.

“I say good compliance is good business,” she said.

— Check out LPL Limits Pay Hikes, Bonuses for Employees on ThinkAdvisor.