Steve McWhorter, chairman and chief executive officer of Securities America, announced his retirement from the company on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the company.

McWhorter, 67, has been with the firm for 22 years, and announced his plan to step down in the spring via a memo that went out to the company’s employees.

The company now begins a nationwide search—internal and external—for a successor. Changing executive leadership now is a tough proposition for any company, as President Barack Obama’s administration is proposing radical revamps for the financial services industry, said Alois Pirker, a research director at Aite Group.  

Reached by phone in his office Friday, McWhorter praised the Securities America leadership team, saying several members have worked there together for at least 15 years. Jim Nagengast, president of the broker-dealer division, is one of several strong members of that group.

“These are people who would do well in any environment,” he said. “These people work extremely well together. They won’t miss a step.”

Indeed, McWhorter postponed retirement several times over a period that included the recent financial crisis, but he said the company had become such a big part of his life, that he wanted to stay for a number of reasons, including marking its 25th anniversary.

“I’m retiring now because it’s time. I want to spend time with family, travel and work on other projects while I still have my health and vitality.”

Despite the transition, McWhorter assured Securities America’s employees that the leadership team will continue to foster an advisor-centric service culture; provide advanced practice and wealth management and business development programs; enhance the advisor workstation, keeping it innovative and user friendly; and help advisors safeguard their practices amid heavy regulations.

“Although it won’t be easy to leave, I feel very confident about the future of this company,” McWhorter said in the memo. “We have many talented people, and I am proud of what we’ve built together. You are more than colleagues—you have become friends of mine as well.”

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, the broker-dealer has almost 2,000 financial professionals with more than $42 billion in client assets under management, and recently marked its 25th anniversary.
A confessed “Type-A” personality, McWhorter said he plans to devote much of his energy to charitable work, including improving the lives of children diagnosed with autism.

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