News that HD Vest CEO Bob Oros is reportedly being tapped by HighTower Advisors to take over as its CEO, remains unconfirmed as of Wednesday morning.
“The search for a new CEO is underway as Chicago-based HighTower works to identify the right leader for the company’s next phase of growth,” according to a statement from HighTower, an RIA consolidater. “Under the present leadership of Elliot Weissbluth, HighTower continues to accelerate the firm’s M&A effort and reinforce its position as the premier player in the fast-growing independent advisory space.”
The potential move of Oros to HighTower was first reported by AdvisorHub on Tuesday.
In August, HighTower, which works with more than 190 advisors who have $55 billion of client assets, said co-founder Weissbluth would move into the chairman slot after a new CEO is tapped.
About two months later, HD Vest’s parent company BluCora said Oros would be leaving the helm on November 15 “for personal reasons in order to be closer to his family” in Boston, though Oros planned to stay on as a consultant through March.
(Related: 4 Questions for CEO Candidates)
Industry watchers like Chip Roame of Tiburon Strategic Advisors say that while Oros could be a good fit, it “feels like an odd report” that he was leaving for family reasons if in fact the move was for a new job.
“Bob is a capable executive who has had numerous relevant experiences,” Roame said. “He ran the RIA segment at Fidelity before moving to HD Vest …. Before he was at Fidelity, he had been successful at Trust Company of America, LPL Financial and Schwab.”
Alois Pirker, who heads wealth-management research for the Aite Group, said: “I have not heard anything to confirm [the Oros move to HighTower], though I can confirm they are searching for a CEO.”
In an interview, Pirker explained the he “could see Bob in that role, … and he certainly is a good candidate, without question.”
In the Hot Seat
There will be a lot of pressure on whomever gets tapped for the CEO slot at HighTower, which is partly owned by the private-equity group Thomas Lee Partners, according to industry consultants.
“I assume the newish PE owners are pushing for growth and an IPO,” explained Roame, adding that HighTower “has been in the IPO window before and stepped back.”
For Pirker, the growing firm is looking for a CEO “with the drive to move it to the next level.”
According to Tim Welsh, head of Nexus Strategy, if anyone is up to the job, it’s Oros.
“He is one of the few executives who has experience with every [type of advisor] platform. The list of brand names he’s worked for is very impressive and includes experience across the [different business] models,” the consultant explained.
“The big challenge is the what HighTower will be to its advisors and where the brand identity is going,” Welsh said.
The firm has been known as the home of breakaway brokers. It then became a platform provider “or tech stack” that it rented out to more industry players and later moved on to acquiring advisors, he adds.
HighTower “has mixed and matched models, which has been good for revenue but blurs the firm’s identity,” Welsh said. “Who are they going after, and what is their identity?”
In this context, Oros “could make his mark as a turnaround guy as he’s done before,” he explained. “This could cement his legacy … He is very ambitious guy, and these challenges excite him.”
If it turns out that Oros does not get the CEO role at HighTower (despite the industry chatter), “He can get hired elsewhere,” Welsh said.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor: