It looks like Advisor Group is going shopping.

The big independent broker-dealer network's new CEO, Erica McGinnis, says she is looking at acquisitions to drive further growth.

"We had spent a lot of time adding advisors one by one, branch by branch," she says. But as the cost of luring new advisors has soared, she says, such growth has become more difficult -- and more expensive. "We really needed to have an acquisition strategy," she concludes.

McGinnis, who was named president and CEO in October after the departure of previous chief Larry Roth, says AIG-owned Advisor Group is looking for smaller B-Ds that it can fold into one of its four existing operations. "It could be 100 advisors, it could be 500 advisors -- something we could integrate into one of our existing brands," she says.

She says she isn't aiming to add standalone B-D brands, yet insists that maintaining the four existing B-Ds -- Woodbury, FSC, Royal Alliance and SagePoint -- as distinct entities is a priority for the network. "Our advisors have chosen to be at that [smaller] brand -- they haven't chosen to be one of 12,000 reps," she says.

If Advisor Group's separate B-Ds were counted as a single entity, the network would have been the fourth-ranked independent B-D on Financial Planning's most recent FP50 rankings. But McGinnis says that by sharing compliance and back-office support, the network gets the economies of scale of a big IBD while still maintaining advisor loyalty. "I get the best of both worlds," she says.

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