After a courtship that lasted years, an LPL Financial hybrid firm has lured away a former Merrill Lynch advisor and retirement plan specialist with $130 million assets under management.

In making the move, advisor John Carroll affiliated with the RIA platform of LPL hybrid firm Independent Financial Partners and has partnered with LPL's retirement division, Pensionmark Retirement Group.

Carroll was part of the executive startup team that launched Wellspring Resources, which became one of the largest retirement plan outsourcing companies in the nation, in a joint venture with State Street Bank of Boston in 1996, according to an LPL statement.

"What IFP and Pensionmark  kind of added for me wasn't only technological and operational support, but also a very high service level," says Carroll, who has launched a new firm, Wellspring Advisor Group in Alexandria, La.


"What LPL brought to the table was a true focus on retirement plans," Carroll adds. "A lot of people talk about having that focus but when you really dig under the hood LPL was really the choice."

Pensionmark provides a wide range of retirement-plan administrative and fiduciary support services.

Carroll also says that LPL's reporting tools made fees transparent for his clients, who will be able to receive a single statement for their B-D and RIA assets.

Wellspring's business is roughly 50% wealth management and 50% focused on retirement, he adds. His client base is made up largely of business owners, ranging from physicans and lawyers to engineers, mostly from Louisiana and Mississippi.


Tampa, Fla.-based IFP has been targeting advisors like Carroll for some time, says Louis Hanna, the firm's director of advisor recruiting.

It took years of back-and-forth talks before Carroll decided to make the leap, he says -- a fact confirmed by Steve Pirigyi, LPL's executive vice president of business development -- but the most intense negotiations unfolded over the past nine months.

"One of the areas that we continue to focus on is serving as a soft landing spot for breakaway advisors and breakaway teams," Hanna says. "We are really striving to offer concierge high-touch service to our advisor space."

An advisor joining the firm "could be a breakaway from a wirehouse or a regional; it could be someone coming from a bank; it could be someone focused on ERISA retirement plans," Hanna adds.

IFP supports about 500 advisors nationwide, about 25% of whom came from wirehouses, Hanna says. The firm has $5 billion in AUM, he says.

"IFP is what we consider a large enterrpise with a national footprint," Pirigyi says.

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