With a forte in analysis and numbers, Cindy Halpern, chief operating officer and controller of Advisory Services Network, was in on the ground floor when the Atlanta-based RIA opened its doors.
With the trend toward independence, the 10-year old firm — which specializes in helping broker-dealer advisors break away — continues to grow with some 150 indie advisors and about $3.5 billion on its platform.
Before ASN was launched, Halpern worked for the firm’s sister firm, Mainstay Capital, which does regulatory consulting for the securities industry. The executive has lived in Atlanta for 26 years, but hasn’t lost her New York roots or accent.
“We found we were building a lot of different [independent advisor firms] for people, and they were coming back to us saying, ‘Hey, we don’t really know how to run [the business] you built for us,’” she explained.
“They were great working with their clients and doing investment advisory work, but when it came to compliance and back-office operations, they were stumbling,” Halpern said, noting that this is why owners (and mentors) Tom Prescott Jr. and Dave Paulukaitis started the firm.
Today, ASN has 17 people who support advisors with $10 million to over $275 million in assets under management. And they still work with their first client.
“Our independent advisors do everything that’s client-facing, and we do everything behind the scenes for them,” she explained. “So many of them, after they’ve come to us, feel relieved that they don’t have to worry about all of the operational issues and compliance, and [they get to] essentially do what they enjoy most: working with their clients directly.”
Plus, over the past 10 years (15 including time with Mainstay), the avid Ted Talk listener has had a front-row seat to watch one of the biggest trends in the business: the move to independence.
“It’s been a huge change in that so many people want to become a fee-only IAs,” Halpern said. “We constantly get people who are dropping their BD licenses, dropping their BD books, converting what assets they can from a BD to the IA side so they can be fee only.”