The hybrid model remains red hot for Triad Advisors.

The independent broker-dealer, a subsidiary of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, has added Wagner Wealth Management with multiple offices in South Carolina, to its growing roster of independent hybrid firms that provide fee-based services through their own RIA.

The firm, which has $260 million in assets under advisement, is in acquisition mode, and was looking for a new IBD to support its growth plans, says firm president Dan Wagner. The firm expects to close acquisitions with RIAs in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Ashville, N.C., by the end of this year, Wagner says.

Such ambitions are exactly why Triad prefers the hybrid model, says Nathan Stibbs, the Atlanta-based IBD's senior vice president of national business development. Stibbs says the IBD believes hybrid advisors are "more entrepreneurial" than those using a corporate RIA for their fee-based business -- a group known as dually registered advisors.

'BETTER PLATFORM FOR GROWTH'

"Hybrid advisors have their own brand and have built their fee-based business," Stibbs says. "They have more flexibility, with access to multiple custodians, and they can provide a better platform for growth, including recruiting and/or acquiring other firms."

The 16-year-old firm, which now works with around 200 advisors around the country, was bought by Ladenburg Thalmann in 2008 and has approximately $21 billion in assets under management. The company/s total revenues rose last year to $156 million, a 27% increase from 2012; that put Triad in the No. 33 spot on the FP50 ranking of independent broker-dealers -- a jump from the 38th spot last year.

Triad's access to Ladenburg Thalmann's investment banking services was a big draw for the firm, says Wagner, says Dan Wagner, the firm's president. "The investment banking relationship gives us more capabilities with our business owner clients, and gives them access to strategic capital for growth" Wagner says.

FINRA FINE

One potential speed bump in Triad's growth spurt: FINRA fined the IBD $650,000 earlier this year for failing to supervise the use of consolidated reporting systems -- resulting in statements with inaccurate valuations being sent to customers -- and for failing to retain the consolidated reports in accordance with securities laws. Triad was also ordered to pay $375,000 in restitution in the case.

Both Triad and Securities America, another Ladenburg Thalmann firm that was also fined for failing to supervise the use of consolidated reporting systems, agreed to settle with FINRA and pay the fines, but neither firm admitted nor denied the charges.

Either way, Wagner says the FINRA action was a "non-event" in his negotiations with Triad, citing the financial industry's "constantly changing regulatory environment."

Stibbs, too, denied the fine had affected Triad's relationships with advisors. The IBD's retention rate among advisors "has been close to 100%," he maintains, "and we expect it to continue."

Read more:

FINRA Punishes Good Advisors Along With Bad