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Cetera Advisor Networks adds $2.5B region as IBDs fold into larger partners

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A smaller independent broker-dealer will close down and drop its RIA to join Cetera Advisor Networks, in at least the third move of its type in the past three years to Cetera Financial Group’s largest IBD.

Dan Levy of North Ridge Wealth Planning opted to join CAN as a regional director — the firm’s terminology for managers of its offices of supervisory jurisdiction — after 30 years. The Long Island-based IBD and RIA has around 85 representatives and more than $2.5 billion in client assets.

The IBD network unveiled North Ridge’s affiliation a week after CEO Robert Moore’s surprise announcement that he plans to step down due to health reasons. The largest of its six subsidiaries has folded in onetime IBDs Girard Securities and HBW Partners as OSJ regions while smaller IBDs seek partners.

Lower revenue-sharing with fund companies and higher regulatory and technology expenses have forced down IBD margins to 3% from 11% over the past decade, according to Echelon Partners. The overall number of IBDs has fallen by more than a quarter to 847 firms in that time, amid record M&A activity.

Moore’s upcoming departure didn’t impact the transition by North Ridge, which Levy says had worked with CAN President Tom Taylor’s team over the past six months. The cost of technology and compliance, the ability to keep Pershing as clearing firm and future recruiting capabilities were the major factors.

“One of the main reasons for choosing Cetera is the fact that they’ve done this many times before,” says Levy. “At several other firms, this would have been trial and error. It’s a complicated process.”

Firms’ head counts show how they’re responding to a challenging time in which experts predict the number of advisors to fall in coming years.
September 17

Cetera Chairman Ben Brigeman of majority owner Genstar Capital will serve as interim CEO after Moore’s March 31 exit. The private equity firm purchased the stake in the six IBD, 7,700 advisor network for $1.7 billion in 2018, nearly two years after Cetera’s parent emerged from bankruptcy protection.

The Los Angeles-based IBD network also split the six IBDs into “traditional” and “specialty” channels last year, putting Taylor in charge of the specialty channel. CAN includes some of Cetera’s largest enterprises, including Ron Carson’s network, Girard, HBW and AdvisorNet.

“North Ridge was attracted to our capabilities that enable a more personalized, transparent and outcomes-based experience of financial advice for clients,” Taylor said in a statement. “[The firm] appreciates that we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all model: We get to know our regions and offer customized support to help them reach their objectives.”

Levy and North Ridge shareholder Sandra Grinspan, who serves as the Melville, New York-based firm’s product analyst and marketing specialist, affiliated with CAN in January, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. The IBD has requested termination effective Feb. 4, its BrokerCheck file shows.

Going to CAN also ensures “the best situation possible” for Levy’s 32-year-old son Matthew, the firm’s COO, when he takes over the OSJ network someday, Levy says. The firm’s advisors — all of whom are coming to Cetera rather than breaking away — are also joining CAN’s corporate RIA.

North Ridge has 17 advisors at the Melville office, with most of the rest spread among offices in the Tri-State area around New York City. Cetera’s My Advice Architect advisory technology suite will help North Ridge grow and appeal to younger advisors over the long term, Levy says.

“As the reps get older and retire, it's harder and harder to recruit new reps,” Levy says. “In order to entice them to join us, you have to have the technology, you have to have the managed money programs.”

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