New CEO with ambitious ‘roadmap’ takes over a Ladenburg IBD

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One of Ladenburg Thalmann’s smaller independent broker-dealers plans to make big moves under its new CEO.

KMS Financial Services promoted veteran IBD executive Erinn Ford on April 8, a little more than a year after she joined the firm as president. Ford joined KMS after a six-year tenure with Cetera Advisors. The Seattle-based IBD has about 350 advisors who generated $108.4 million in revenue in 2017.

Ford takes the reins from 30-year KMS mainstay Eric Westberg, who is now serving as chairman emeritus. In an interview, she laid out a “roadmap” for changes over the rest of the year, including an upcoming integration with AdvicePay that she describes as the first step.

KMS is also expanding its traditional focus from the organic growth of existing advisors to more external recruiting, hiring for three executive positions, launching its first advisor council and annual advisor surveys and rolling out a streamlined home-office service model, Ford says.

The firm is able to provide small firm and boutique service “combined with the resources of Ladenburg” and a four-custodian corporate RIA, she says. “We really want to go towards the needs-based, consultative approach in growing the firm.”

The network’s largest subsidiary will support fee-only advisors, and one of its smaller firms is targeting five times its level of recruitment from 2018.
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Ford began her career in the financial services industry in 1992 at Pacific West Securities, an IBD led by both her parents that was acquired by Cetera Financial Group in 2012.

Former Cetera CEO Larry Roth notes KMS’ status as “one of the very few IBDs” located in its region as a boon to growth.

“KMS is very fortunate to have Erinn Ford as the firm’s new CEO,” Roth, now managing partner at the consulting firm RLR Strategic Partners, said in a statement. “When she was president of Cetera Advisors, Erinn demonstrated an incredible talent for inspiring advisors, prospective recruits and home office staff, even when the big picture looked challenging.”

Integrating with AdvicePay will allow KMS advisors to offer subscription-based planning services. Ford expects it to launch in about three weeks.

Simultaneously, Ford and her team are interviewing candidates for a head of business development. In coming months, she’ll also be looking to hire a chief marketing officer and a COO.

In addition, the firm is pitching fully independent RIA advisors and those affiliated with other brokerages on the merits of its small-firm culture in a bigger network. Ford has outlined a “fair number” target of recruiting $10 million in gross dealer concessions and a “stretch goal” of $15 million for 2019.

KMS’ first advisor council will meet in early June, and the company will begin tracking advisors’ satisfaction and feedback in a new annual survey later this year. The firm will test a new standardized home-office service model in the fourth quarter, with full deployment in 2020, according to Ford.

“We have advisors calling different departments,” she says, adding that the goal is a “user-friendly” experience for advisors that is less variant based on the custodian they use. “We will reorganize into a cross-functional department.”

She also says she’s “very grateful” that Westberg will stay on in an advisory capacity. Both Ladenburg CEO Dick Lampen and Westberg issued statements expressing their support for Ford.

“Having had the pleasure and privilege of being with KMS for over 30 years, I take enormous pride in all that we have built for our financial advisors and the clients they serve,” Westberg said. “The decision to offer Erinn the CEO position was an easy one, due to her deep appreciation of our history and culture, and because of the tremendous contributions she has made to the firm over the past year as president.”

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Independent BDs Recruiting Career moves C-suite Business development Erinn Ford Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services KMS Financial Services