Cetera Financial Group poached LPL Financial’s top recruiting executive in the West to serve as its head of business development amid an ongoing capital structure review at the largest independent broker-dealer network.

Michael Murray, who had managed a team of 23 internal and external recruiters at LPL, will help lead a new recruiting strategy at Cetera focused on adding data analytics to traditional lead generation and marketing, CEO Robert Moore says. The Los Angeles-area company announced the hiring May 9.

Murray will take over the newly created post on May 21. The appointment follows major moves by Cetera in February to reorganize its six IBDs into traditional and specialty channels, shake up its executive ranks and tap Goldman Sachs for the review, with a sale as one possible option.

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One of the biggest notable losses came from Merrill Lynch, which lost a team managing $1 billion to the independent space.

The hiring also comes after Cetera announced its first positive net new advisors and revenue in three years after recruiting 784 advisors last year. At the end of 2017, the network’s six firms had 7,772 advisors. The six IBDs previously had their own top business development executives, but none at the group level.

Moore declined to discuss the capital review or the firm’s first-quarter recruiting figures. However, Murray will leverage analytical data to “pre-screen” the best prospective advisors for the firm’s recruitment outreach and the best potential client leads for the firm’s existing advisors, Moore says.

Michael Murray, who had managed a team of 23 internal and external recruiters at LPL, will help lead a new recruiting strategy at Cetera Financial Group.


“We have been searching for a while for a head of our business development team,” Moore says, calling Murray a “superb choice” for the role. “We’re not looking to incrementally just put adjacent capabilities or talent into place. We’re looking for a step-change outcome.”

A spokesman for LPL said: "We’re committed to developing talented leaders and strong general managers across our organization. We know working for LPL contributes to an individual’s leadership brand."

He had started at LPL in 2002, eventually overseeing all recruiters, division managers and support staff west of the Mississippi in the No. 1 IBD’s business development unit. Prior to joining LPL, he had served as regional sales director for the West Coast at Nationwide, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Cetera’s new approach represents “a truly unique business development strategy,” Murray said in a statement, noting the firm’s recovery under parent firm Aretec after its prior owner, RCS Capital, went bankrupt about two and a half years ago.

The firm, he added, has “achieved an enormously successful turnaround since 2016, and is moving forward with a distinctive vision for the future, together with a highly energized leadership team that is passionate about the company’s mission of effecting transformative change for the financial advice profession.”

Murray will operate out of Cetera’s office in San Diego and his hometown of San Francisco, reporting to chief marketing officer Michael Zuna, who joined the firm in September. The firm had tapped Michael Ragunas to be its chief information officer a month earlier.

Murray and other executives will identify “numerous additional people for us to bring on board across the country” in order to fill out the business development team, Moore says.

In addition to financial services experience, Ragunas and Zuna — the onetime CMO of Aflac and Petco — boast prior tenures in consumer products. Their backgrounds will serve Murray’s team well as they carry out Cetera’s data-driven recruiting and growth strategy in the advisory space, Moore says.

“I think consumer products have a big lead in terms of its insights into what drives consumer behavior,” Moore says, noting that a data-driven approach is what people “have come to expect from every other aspect of their lives.”

Tobias Salinger

Tobias Salinger

Tobias Salinger is an associate editor for Financial Planning, On Wall Street & Bank Investment Consultant.