Expanding union-focused team follows ex-LPL colleagues to Cetera
A practice focused on serving union members joined a new independent broker-dealer after its assets under management soared by 156% in the past seven years.
Eric Burton and Ron Whittingham of Megent Financial left LPL Financial for Cetera Advisors, roughly a year after former LPL executive Mimi Bock took over as president of the firm. Chicago-based Megent has 12 producing advisors managing $640 million in client assets.
Cetera Financial Group — the IBD’s parent network — also tapped LPL’s onetime top recruiting executive in the West, Michael Murray, to serve as its first head of business development. Outgoing CEO Robert Moore had been LPL’s president before coming to Cetera in 2016.
Burton wrote a personal email to Bock expressing that he and Whittingham have “never felt more sincerely and genuinely wanted, valued or most importantly, understood.” They had moved to LPL in 2016 — their second tenure with the firm after three years with FSC Securities.
“We had relationships with so many people who are now at Cetera. They're all people that we've liked for a long, long time,” Burton says. “Relationships are critical, and we are relationship people. It just felt like coming home again.”
Representatives for LPL didn’t respond to requests for comment on Megent’s exit.
Whittingham’s ex-father-in-law started the practice, which he joined 18 years ago. Burton came to the practice in 2005. Both have several family members on its staff of more than 20 employees, they say. The team affiliated with Cetera Advisors on Feb. 28, according to FINRA BrokerCheck.
The firm has more than 4,000 clients from a dozen unions, mostly skilled labor like electricians and construction trades. The South Side natives’ hometown roots help them work with clients for whom it’s not “what part of the city you're from, it's what parish,” Whittingham says.
“The pensions are built by the trustees of the plan, and the [union] members typically don’t have a lot of working knowledge of the plan,” he says, noting the problem posed at retirement. “They're handed a set of keys to a car that they've never driven and don't know how to drive.”
With Chairman Ben Brigeman of majority owner Genstar Capital set to be interim CEO upon Moore’s exit at the end of March for health reasons, the company has pledged to invest in growth. Cetera’s advisory platform and business consulting helped win Megent over, Bock says.
“Eric's note was truly inspiring,” Bock said in a statement. “At our core, Cetera is about helping America's investors live and retire well. Megent shares this same belief.”
Lower investible assets often cause advisors to ignore union members as prospective clients, according to Whittingham and Burton. The industry “preaches working with high-net-worth individuals” like doctors, lawyers and other HNW professionals, Burton says.
“We work with truly a neglected class when it comes to our industry,” he says. “Everyone in our industry is chasing the same exact person. They've all got advisors beating down the doors with them trying to provide them financial advice. Our clients — there is no one beating down the door trying to talk to them.”