LPL Financial's regional strategy continues to bear fruit, this time luring in an unusual catch – two advisors from one of the top five independent RIAs in the country, Ronald Blue.
Andy Lubben and Kirk Wilkerson, both of whom spent 12 years at Ronald Blue where they managed $185 million in client assets, are moving to Merit Financial Advisors. The pair serves a niche market of widows and recently divorced women, according to an LPL release.
Their new firm, Consilium Associates, is based in Merit's Alpharetta, Ga. offices. Merit manages $627 million in client assets and has 15 advisors in five offices including Alpharetta, Birmingham, Ala., Davidson, N.C., Jacksonville, Fla. and Orlando.
NOT ABOUT LPL
In describing the impetus behind the move, Wilkerson says, "It was really more of the culture and the people of Merit than it was the people at LPL." Wilkerson says he has known Merit's director of investments, Doug Blanton, for more than ten years.
Blanton, Lubben and Wilkerson worked together for Ronald Blue, which is known for its Christian-oriented planning.
"Due to our firm's unique culture and the way we serve our clients through biblical advice, it's not often that advisors choose to leave our firm," spokeswoman Sandy Morgan said in a statement. "However, we have had advisors leave from time to time for various reasons like joining a ministry, mission work, career changes, a desire to serve clients in a different way, etcetera. We wish all employees who decide to leave us much success in their future endeavors."
Over the past four years, LPL has recruited the largest number of its advisors through regional offices of supervisory jurisdiction (OSJs) around the country.
These advisors are looking for the backing of a firm with large scale, as well as the intimacy of a smaller culture, according to Steve Pirigyi, LPL’s executive vice president of business development.
MORE RIAS TURNING TO LPL?
Less common is seeing independent advisors move to a broker dealer-affiliated firm, although Pirigyi says it has become more frequent.
"We often see the move of already-independent advisors to LPL," he says. "What we find is they do so because they find greater value in the resources, tools and platform we provide, versus what else is out there in the marketplace."
We try to find the right fit for any advisor that wants to make the move to LPL," he adds. "We support firms of all sizes and structures."
It's the second time this year that LPL, the country's largest independent broker dealer, and Ronald Blue, one of the nation's staunchest fee-only firms, have shared a headline.
Over the summer, the Roswell, Ga.-based RIA moved its retirement business to LPL's platform after it hit $1 billion in AUM and "just became too much" for Ronald Blue to manage on its own, Vince Birley, the firm's chief strategy officer said at that time.
The platform operates through LPL's RIA and is not commission-based.
Wilkerson timed his firm's move to Merit with the launch of a nonprofit, Women Renewed.
The nonprofit, formed in August, aims to provide free or discounted housing, automobiles, personal care services and other benefits to widows and women going through divorces, he says. Its work will be related to the firm's for-profit business which serves clients with the same needs, but who are able to pay for planning, Wilkerson says.
"We spend a lot of time focused on that community," he says. "There's just a tremendous need out there. We believe that if we take care of the widows and orphans of the world, all the other business will come."
Merit will provide the right partner on the business side to enable Wilkerson to launch the nonprofit, he says.
"I loved my old firm. I have no ill will against them," he says. This "is not a decision about them. This is about a vision."
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