Cetera Financial Group has filled a new top marketing role, seen as a needed stopgap at a time when independent broker-dealers are attempting to stanch falling revenue and reverse advisor momentum toward RIAs.

The industry’s largest IBD network tapped former Aflac Chief Marketing Officer Michael Zuna to develop resources to support advisors’ client research and bulk up the network’s recruitment pitch.

Cetera Financial Group revenue 2014-2016

Zuna will also aid in efforts by Cetera to embrace the fiduciary rule amid many changes at the firm, according to President Adam Antoniades. In addition to an ownership shakeup and investments in compliance and technology, the network is consolidating from seven to six BDs.

“We were effectively asking ourselves what we think is a very differentiated question: what is the optimal way to deliver financial advice?” Antoniades says.

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Certera won’t be filling the airwaves with ads or creating a mascot like the Aflac duck, Zuna’s onetime bailiwick, Antoniades says. Rather, the new CMO will ensure advisors are a part of its marketing equation.

“We need a broader and deeper set of skill sets to really bring it to life. We need to understand the consumer more effectively. We need to understand and be closer to our advisors.”

Michael Zuna, Cetera
Michael Zuna, 48, will work out of San Diego in the new role atop a team of about 70 staffers.

AUGMENTED ROLE
Zuna, who is based in San Diego, oversees a team of about 55 marketing staff members and roughly 15 employees from the firm’s business development unit. From 2009 to 2015, he had been CMO at Aflac, where he assisted the firm’s more than 70,000 agents and brokers, in addition to managing the company's duck ads.

Petco appointed him its chief marketing and digital officer in April 2015, but Zuna cites more than 20 years of experience in finance. Prior to Aflac, he had worked with firms like Ameriprise and USAA at several ad agencies based in New York.

Two executives had previously handled CMO duties at Cetera, and Zuna’s hiring marks how the company is “augmenting” the role, Antoniades says.

Zuna, 48, says he is “humbled and thrilled” with the new position, though he is still working to put together his plans for the next several months after taking over his post Friday. He points to the firm’s motto of an “advice-centric” approach.

“It was crystal clear to me that Cetera and the leadership team wants to completely redefine the financial advice space,” Zuna says.