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First Allied firm acquires $105M LPL practice as succession fuels record M&A

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A First Allied Securities firm has acquired an LPL Financial practice with $105 million in client assets, in a merger resulting in a succession plan at the selling firm and an eighth office for the buyer.

Kevin VanDyke’s Bloomfield Hills Financial purchased Eva Thomson’s Thomson Financial Management with financing from First Allied parent Cetera Financial Group, the firms announced this week. Thomson’s firm, which is based in Northampton, Massachusetts, had previously been aligned with LPL for 17 years.

Bloomfield Hills, named after its base in suburban Detroit, manages about $1.5 billion in client assets following the M&A deal. In a related move, the firm has also poached advisor Nick Cantrell from CUSO Financial Services to lead its new Massachusetts practice when Thomson retires.

Succession planning is fueling peer-to-peer transactions in the independent broker-dealer space amid the record M&A activity throughout the industry. Cetera has provided services like funding, consulting and other resources in more than 250 tuck-in acquisitions across its network since 2015, the firm says.

The unveiling of its latest deal came after Cetera’s parent, Aretec, retained Goldman Sachs for a strategic review of the firm ahead of a possible sale. Last month, Cetera also divided its six IBDs into specialty and traditional channels, with First Allied joining two others on the traditional side.

In a statement, VanDyke praised Thomson and said his team is “honored to be chosen by her out of dozens of prospective transaction partners.” He also expressed approval for Cetera’s review process.

“Cetera’s commitment and partnership has been a key element in our consistent growth, and I believe that will continue to be the case during and after Cetera’s review of its capital structure,” VanDyke said. “Cetera truly has undertaken this process from a position of strength — and I believe that strength will continue to benefit its advisors, their practices and their clients in the years ahead.”

Among recent career changes, Merrill Lynch lost brokers managing $2.2 billion to rival J.P. Morgan Securities.
February 20

The firms did not disclose any of the terms of the acquisition, and VanDyke and Thomson didn’t respond to requests for an interview beyond statements included in the press release.

A spokeswoman for CUSO didn’t respond to requests for comment on Cantrell’s departure, while a spokesman for LPL declined to comment on Thomson’s exit.

Thomson made the switch from LPL to First Allied on Nov. 9, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. She expects to retire over the next one to two years, according to the firms. The Western Massachusetts-based firm also includes three client services staff members.

Cantrell had aligned with CUSO for five years before joining First Allied on the same date as Thomson, BrokerCheck shows. He broke into the industry in 2007 with NYLife Securities.

Bloomfield Hills lists a seven-member executive team plus seven advisors, 12 other support staff members and a team mascot, VanDyke’s dog Lilly. The firm consists of three offices in Michigan, in addition to others in Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas.

“We’re confident that more outstanding advisors such as Eva Thomson will continue to find strong succession-planning transaction partners across the Cetera advisor community in the years ahead,” Richard Whitworth, Cetera’s managing director for business consulting, said in a statement.

Revenue at San Diego-based First Allied fell 18% in 2016 to $227 million as it moved down in Financial Planning’s annual FP50 rankings to No. 28 from No. 25 a year earlier. The firm had more than 600 advisors at the end of 2017 with nearly $32 billion in assets under administration.

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