A few months after he became the sixth Cetera Financial Group executive to exit the firm in the past year, Steve Dunlap has a new job.
As the latest president and COO of web-based wealth management platform provider FolioDynamix, one of his customers will be … Cetera.
With the move, Dunlap returns to his earlier passion for working in smaller technology firms.
"I'm very excited about getting back to my roots here in the entrepreneurial world," Dunlap says.
Before leaving Cetera, Dunlap had served as CEO of Tower Square Investment Management, Cetera's asset management arm. He had also served as Cetera's wealth management chief.
BREWING PLAN B
Three years ago, Dunlap had moved his family to Los Angeles from the East Coast to join Cetera. It seemed like a great move at the time.
After Nicholas Schorsch's firm RCS Capital Group bought Cetera in 2014, it became the second-largest independent broker-dealer in the country, in terms of advisor count.
But RCS Capital shares collapsed in 2015 after an accounting scandal at another Schorsch firm, American Realty Capital Properties, and Dunlap lost his job. RCS Capital stock has since been delisted and the company has filed for bankruptcy.
Throughout the turmoil and even before, Dunlap says he had been talking to Joseph Mrak, the FolioDynamix CEO, about working together one day. They initially met in 2009 when Dunlap selected Folio to provide the integrated wealth management platform for Pershing Managed Investments. At the time, Dunlap was president of Pershing, the managed investments division of BNY Mellon.
"I made the decision to bring Folio in" to Pershing, Dunlap says. "We did a complete survey of every solution in the marketplace and went deep on every one and FolioDynamix won that beauty contest. I know the company, I know the people, I know the product, I know the space."
Dunlap comes to FolioDynamix as its competition in the rebalancing software space has transformed. It's main competitor now is Envestnet, which bought out rival Tamarac in 2012 for $54 million.
Dunlap has long enjoyed working with new companies.
Earlier in his career, Dunlap created and built the venture-funded startup AnnuityNet. AnnuityNet later became Finetre Corporation and was acquired by Ebix.
SOURED ON CORPORATE AMERICA?
Asked whether he's soured on corporate America after his roller coaster ride at Cetera, Dunlap says that, although he's discovered he's a better fit at smaller firms, the answer is no.
"By any estimation it was a fantastic experience. I have all the respect in the world for the Cetera of 2013 and the Cetera in 2016," he says.
He'll be able to talk to large clients with new understanding and authority, he says.
"You are on the inside seeing how big companies work and you go, 'Oh, that's why that happened,'" he says.
With that in mind, he's looking forward to being part of his new firm's evolution.
"As a customer, I was always outspoken about what they should do to take the product to the next level," Dunlap says. "Now I kind of get to go and put my money where my mouth is."
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