In a new strategic direction, Washington Wealth Management, a two-year old firm that has been growing on a tear by luring advisors from wirehouses, has joined LPL, bringing $750 million in assets under management to the country's largest independent broker-dealer.
The move follows on the heels of the departure earlier this year of San Diego-based firm's founder Anthony Sirianni, who left to start a new venture. The LPL alliance appears to mark a departure from Sirianni's strongly voiced convictions about creating a thoroughly independent company for ex-wirehouse advisors who are driving the firm's growth.
However Rob Bartenstein, Washington Wealth's CEO says the move has been met with unanimous approval from the firm's 15 advisors.
"What we fight with every day is the lack of education within wirehouses about how great the offerings are outside of the wirehouse," Bartenstein said in an interview. "As tired as advisors are of carrying the water for wirehouses, many of them don't want to leave. Our job, as we see it, is to build a model that is as familiar as possible to a wirehouse and yet [delivers] all the benefits of independence."
To those who characterize LPL's business model as one of "captive independence," Bartenstein says this is a misnomer.
"That's not a reflection of what LPL is today," he says.
Washington Wealth chose LPL, he explains, because while the firm remains firmly committed to a multi-custodial platform as a "tenet of who we are and what we want to offer to clients," the firm found that a multi-B-D platform created too many inefficiencies.
The LPL environment, he adds, "is very familiar to what a wirehouse adviosr has in a captive environment and yet (with LPL), they are not captive."
Bill Morrissey, executive vice president of business development of LPL, says the B-D offers its firms three different ways to associate with LPL. The first is a registered representative model where LPL holds the advisors' securities licenses and firms use LPL's corporate RIA. The second is a hybrid model where LPL also holds the licenses but the firms do their fee-based business under their own RIA. The third is a stand-alone custody offering which allows advisors to drop their securities licenses.
"I'm not aware of another firm that offers the same continuum of business models" to help firms as they evolve and grow, Morrissey says.
Going forward, Washington Wealth will continue to target wirehouse advisors with $100 million or more in AUM and roughly $1 million in revenues, according to Bartenstein.
"We will in all likelihood be in excess of $1 billion in AUM by the end of this year," he says, "and at $3 billion by the end of 2013."
Sirianni remains a shareholder in Washington Wealth and a supporter of the company's new direction, Bartenstein adds.
"I know he wanted to try some other things," he says. "We are cheering for him and, as a shareholder of Washington Wealth, he is cheering for us."