LPL wants its advisors to know that it has heard their complaints and is doing something about them.

The largest independent broker-dealer in the country announced a sweeping set of service enhancements, technological improvements and fee reductions, while acknowledging that its planners have long struggled with service and technology problems.

The announcements came during the opening session Monday at focus13, LPL’s annual conference in San Diego, before a capacity audience that appeared to be near the event's expected attendance of 5,700 people.

CONFESSIONAL TONE

With lights low, and spotlight on his stool, LPL’s still-new Chief Information Officer Victor Fetter began his presentation as if offering an intimate one-on-one confessional.

“Let there be no doubt: I have heard you and thank you for your honesty,” said Fetter, who came to LPL from Dell Computer eight months ago. “We’ve invested over 250 hours into seeing how you work [and] listening to ideas on how we can make your life easier.”

He ticked off a number of planner concerns that he said were sometimes “extremely difficult” to hear: “Ongoing, nagging systems issues ... Inability to work on iPads, tablets and Androids. Duplicative work processes. Concerns about data accuracy.”

Video of advisors enumerating other complaints or ideas ran on a huge screen in the background.

FEE CUT & OTHER CHANGES

In the past few months alone, he said, LPL has made 300 changes to its core platform. One big one is a drop in fees: Depending on the subscription options they choose, LPL advisors have been paying an average of roughly $151 a month for use of the core platform. With future reductions, that fee could drop to $75 a month for many advisors, Fetter said. The changes will be effective as of Oct. 1.

In addition, a new rebalancing tool for $150 a month will enable advisors on LPL's fee-based platform to execute 100 stock trades in the time it takes to do one -- that's seven minutes, rather than 12 hours with the previous system, Fetter said, drawing one staccato burst of appreciation from the audience.

The tool was rolled out to all 13,300 LPL planners about a month ago, and about 100 a week are starting to use it, according to LPL.

Recent changes to the technology platform include the following:

  • Making 80% of all documents available for eSignature, an electronic signature tool
  • An upgrade to LPL’s imaging technology that will make it easier to upload documents
  • Check deposits on mobile devices -- a system that, since its launch six months ago, has already received $350 million in deposits, according to Fetter
  • Enhanced mobile account views

In addition, Fetter promised more changes coming soon:

  • A mobile tablet-based resource center
  • Enhanced email with better security.
  • An overhaul, currently underway, of the portfolio management system (which drew another big round of applause)

SERVICE & COMPLIANCE

The company, a perennial No. 1 in Financial Planning's annual FP50 rankings, also has hired 100 new people into service and compliance positions in the past year – in response to advisor concerns about low levels of quality in both areas, according to Fetter. Of that number, 60 are technology professionals.

Fetter also said LPL has brought on pioneering innovation and design firm IDEO to help it upgrade its service to advisors.

The corporate hires include Fetter himself and a chief information security officer “to make sure our most precious asset” is secure, he said. They also include a business information specialist, “someone who understands data, someone who can help us turn raw data into analytics.” And LPL has added former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy to its board of directors.

“We’ve been working on the culture,” Fetter added. “We’ve shifted the organization to be product-based. so when we could think about how we deliver, when we deliver.”

In addition to data centers in San Diego and Charlotte, N.C., LPL also is bringing online a third data center at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Texas.

At one point, Fetter walked across the stage calling out the names of individual advisors and telling them that LPL has fixed specific problems that they had complained about.

“I hope you already feel the benefit of these changes,” Fetter told the audience, urging advisors to share their visions for further improvements. “As a partner on this journey, I do have some requests from you: that you learn about the new solutions that we are making available. I ask that you invest the time to bring them into your practice ... In return I will personally commit myself and my team to constant listening.”

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