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Commonwealth Grabs Fidelity Exec to Lead RIA Efforts

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Commonwealth Financial Network has hired former Fidelity executive Matthew Chisholm to be head of its RIA and practice management services. 

With Fidelity for 14 years, Chisholm spent the past three years as head of practice management and consulting at Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions. His departure comes at a strategically important time for Fidelity, as rival RIA custodian Charles Schwab tries to gobble up TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley acquires E-Trade. 

“We are … fortunate to gain [Chisholm’s] extensive experience in both the fee-only and practice management arenas to accelerate the natural evolution of our business,” said Commonwealth CEO Wayne Bloom, in a statement.

Joni Youngwirth, partner emeritus, led the firm’s Practice Management efforts since 1998 and recently opted to move into a part-time role and lead Commonwealth Cares.

As of Feb. 1, Commonwealth says nearly 120 of its roughly 2,000 advisors have moved to a fee-only business model; they work with about $7.6 billion in assets out of a firmwide total of about $200 billion. “[N]umerous additional firms [are] under advanced consideration for 2020” to make the shift, the firm added.

“As our industry continues to shift to fee-based advice, we are uniquely poised to partner with advisors not only where they are, but where they want to go,” Bloom said.   

Chisholm reports to Greg Gohr, managing principal of Wealth Management, and a Commonwealth partner who’s been with the firm for 20 years. 

“We see Matt as someone who will help us get to the next level with fee-only business. His experience … and understanding of the RIA model brings us a knowledge base that frankly we need to continue our evolution from broker-dealer to RIA infrastructure provider,” Gohr said in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

“Merging the RIA and practice-management groups is a much better way to engage with fee-only advisors and to help them better run their firms …,” he added.

‘The Right Path’

For his part, Chisholm said in a statement: “Commonwealth is a forward-thinking, award-winning firm that has centered its business around integrity and consistency … I am fully committed to advancing the firm’s full spectrum of consulting for both existing and prospective advisors who know the direction they want to take their business but need guidance on finding the right path.”

Commonwealth began referring to itself as “the nation’s largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser/independent broker-dealer” in 2017.

“The reality is where the majority of our revenue comes from is the RIA. We are a national RIA, and we’re one of the largest,” Commonwealth President and Chief Operating Officer Trap Kloman said in an interview at the firm’s national conference last year.

“We have a brand opportunity that I’m excited about and for the marketing team to be working on for 2020,” he added at the time. “There’s a lot more to come.”

As for what’s most pushing advisors into the fee-only space, Gohr stresses regulation: “More FAs have to adapt to the continually changing regulatory environment, and many feel their businesses are in a place that makes it a little more efficient to not deal with the FINRA side of house” (and thus rely fully on Commonwealth’s RIA and not its broker-dealer). 

Tapping Chisholm should have a big impact on this effort, according to Gohr. “He’s a phenomenal hire, and we’re thrilled to have him,” the managing principal said.   

— Check out Commonwealth Execs Sound Off on ‘Race to Zero,’ RIA Growth on ThinkAdvisor.


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