John Burmeister, president and COO of Lion Street, BD of the Year winner in Division I (Photo courtesy of Lion Street)

John Burmeister, president of the Broker-Dealer of the Year in Division I this year, could not attend the editorial roundtable in person. In a separate interview, Burmeister weighed in on the issues raised during the roundtable.-Ed.

Jamie Green: Let’s start with Lion Street itself — this is a new kind of firm?

John Burmeister: Lion Street was founded by Bob Carter in 2010 as a distributor of insurance products, but he also asked ‘How can we make it different?’ If you have ownership, that’s a big differentiator. So we started building owner firms; two years into it, the decision was made to have a broker-dealer and RIA for a fully integrated firm.

Green: Who is attracted to your model?

Burmeister: We’re attracting life and wealth management firms [that offer] holistic planning; our advisors excel at servicing all those needs. What’s also central is the culture and idea-sharing among owner firms. We bring them together through conferences and growth groups, where they can interact with each other.

In the recruiting process, we want someone who sees the value of ownership — they’re owners, so if they help another owner build their practice, we’re increasing their value.

They’re experienced, have well-established practices, and they’re willing to invest in growth.

We have a fully integrated platform — full-service broker-dealer, RIA, multi-life capabilities, expertise across the spectrum, influence with carriers, either life insurance or the Pershing [clearing] relationship. Both our employees and advisors have an ownership stake in the company, [providing] cultural and financial alignment.

On technology, why invent technology when there’s best-of-breed out there? So we’re scalable and extremely efficient.

Green: As a relatively new broker-dealer, are you avoiding legacy issues other BDs might have? What about complying with the DOL fiduciary rule?

Burmeister: Our systems are custom designed for today’s regulatory environment and tomorrow’s advisor space. We’ve partnered with the Financial Services Institute [on DOL fiduciary] and received guidance from them. We’re going to act in a very structured, well-coordinated manner.

We don’t have the financial burden of reprogramming; [instead we’re focused on] operationalizing the new rule, guiding our reps to comply. We’re well-positioned for DOL — there will be best-of-breed solutions, like a fee levelizer calculator

Green: With Lion Street’s roots in the insurance business, is risk management one of your firm’s strengths?

Burmeister: Absolutely. Virtually every BD will have to take into account every rep’s history, but we go beyond; we give reps the products they need to protect against future needs. We’re not bringing in green advisors, but well-established firms, and since we are a smaller model, we’ll know our firms more intimately. We won’t need compliance to dictate to the lowest common denominator.

We may be new, but that doesn’t mean we’re not experienced; we’ve built tools and capabilities for our owners to serve their end clients. We’re not polishing somebody’s else’s statue, we’re building our own.

— Read Facing Off: The 2016 Broker-Dealers of the Year on ThinkAdvisor.