Securities America, the nation's seventh-largest independent broker-dealer according to Financial Planning's 2011 revenue rankings, continues to lose reps at rapid clip as they and the rest of the industry await the unit's eventual sale.
Commonwealth Financial Network recently announced it had lured away three practices run by former Securities America reps that generated annual fees and commissions of more than $4.2 million and expects to add more in the near future. Cambridge Investment Research also said it has lured away reps with combined production in excess of $3.8 million.
After Ameriprise in April declared its intentions to sell off the unit, a group of Securities America reps in June conceived and circulated a loyalty pledge among their ranks in the hopes of keeping attrition in check. Company officials described the letter as a "grassroots" effort intended to help boost morale.
Obviously, at least for some Securities America reps, it wasn't enough.
A Raymond James source told Financial Planning that the firm interviewed “a number” of Securities America reps at its national conference in May and has continued interviewing potential recruits from the firm.
Recruiter Rick Peterson, principal at Rick Peterson & Associates of Houston, said he has been receiving inquiries from Securities American reps anxious to leave Securities America, which recently reached a $160-million settlement with investors who bought failed private placements from the firm between 2003 and 2008.
“What I’m hearing from these guys,” Peterson said, “is that very few of them want to go to a major firm like Wells Fargo. They want to stay independent. A lot of them like LPL and I think eventually LPL will get the bulk of the people who leave.”
Peterson adds that thus far he hasn't made any Securities America placements at LPL Financial.
"They do not use executive search firms over there,” he explained. “They have their own very good 30-person internal recruiting operation at LPL.”
Saying that, Peterson said recent defections are hardly surprising and figure to only increase as long as the firm's future remains unsettled.
"Whenever you have a problem that makes clients at a clearing firm want to flee to quality, you’re going to see the better brokers looking to move and bring those clients along with them," Peterson said. To retain those clients, he said, they need to move to a firm with a good reputation and Peterson said, “LPL has been totally free of problems."
LPL Financial officials were not immediately available to comment on its recruitment practices. Earlier Wednesday, the company posted strong second quarter earnings and noted that it had added almost 600 new financial advisors in the past year.
Janine Wertheim, a Securities American spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports of advisors leaving the firm and would not disclose how many of the firm's 1,800 advisors actually signed the loyalty letter circulated last month.
Acknowledging that other firms are making “aggressive” recruiting efforts, she said, “The majority of our advisors have told us they are staying. They want to know the opportunities for new ownership for both them and their clients.”
Among companies reportedly vying to purchase Securities America are Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Inc. and Cetera Financial Group. Both firms have reportedly ceased any efforts at recruiting Securities America brokers -- an indication that they are involved in negotiations with the company’s parent.