There’s a lot of change taking place in the advisory business: Cetera Financial Group recently said it would sell a major stake to Genstar Capital; shares of Focus Financial (which counts KKR and Stone Point Capital as large stakeholders) began trading on Nasdaq; and about 10 months after it sold a substantial interest to Thomas Lee Partners, HighTower Advisors CEO Elliot Weissbluth announced the firm is seeking a new chief executive, though he will stay on as chairman.
These developments have kept our news team busy. They’ve also been food for thought for the leaders of independent broker-dealers, four of whom explain their views on a variety of industry topics in this month’s cover story.
We are, of course, pleased to share these insights from the four winners of the Broker-Dealer of the Year Awards. We also are very grateful that — despite their crazy schedules — these executives gave generously of their time to debate a series of topics that affect financial advisors and their clients.
For my colleague Ginger Szala and I, listening to the discussion between Amy Webber, Lon Dolber, Ryan Diachok and David Springer was like watching a tennis match. We asked them about consolidation, fee compression, regulation and technology, and they just went back and forth with their different thoughts.
Speaking of technology, Industry Insights contributor Tim Welsh gives us the inside scoop of what went on at the recent TD Ameritrade Institutional Tech Summit in Dallas. As tech expert Joel Bruckenstein commented about the gathering’s focus on integration and tools like application programming interfaces: “These improvements are desperately needed in light of how other newer players, such as robo advisors, can seamlessly open accounts.”
In Washington Watch, Melanie Waddell highlights the comments of attorney Fred Reish, who just spoke at a Department of Labor-organized discussion on retirement income. “The greatest impediment” to the inclusion of these products in defined contribution plans, he says, is the fear of “being sued for a fiduciary breach.”
In the RIA Leaders & Lessons, I describe a new performance measure created by Dynasty Financial Partners and Advisor Growth Strategies — earnings before owner and advisor compensation, while in ETF Advisor, Ginger looks at a commodity-themed product that takes a strategic rather than a traditional long-only approach. Melanie gets into the nitty-gritty of the advisor vs. adviser debate in this month’s Playing Field column. One advisor told her the lack of clarity around professional titles is “a major problem in the industry,” and several experts explained that it hurts both investors and investment professionals.
As we discussed at our Broker-Dealer of the Year roundtable in Chicago this July, more transparency is likely to become the norm in the future, with clients asking for all the details on what they are getting for their fees or commissions. That clarity already is being sought by many individuals speaking or meeting with advisors today, so more technological, regulatory and other changes should expand this trend.
Despite the rapid pace of industry news of late and the tough challenges that lie ahead, we hope you have a pleasant end of the summer and a great start to the fall. We’ll try our best to do the same.