A longtime major player in the independent broker-dealer space and a newcomer making big moves have tapped executives from rival firms for top operations and recruiting roles.

Ladenburg Thalmann’s Securities America, the No. 10 IBD, poached Jim Meyers from Ameriprise to serve as its COO, while Atria Wealth Solutions, the private equity-backed parent of two and soon to be three IBDs, hired Matthew Bassuk from Cetera Financial Group to be its national director of recruiting.

Securities America revenue

The firms announced the appointments on June 19 as competition and consolidation roil the industry. Nearly half of the top 50 IBDs, like Securities America, produced double-digit gains in revenue last year. No. 32 IBD Cadaret, Grant agreed in April to be sold to Atria, which just launched last August.

Jim Meyers, Securities America
Jim Meyers joined Securities America from Ameriprise.

M&A deals have been shaping IBDs for years. Securities America CEO Jim Nagengast and Meyers, an 18-year Ameriprise veteran, met when Ameriprise still owned the Omaha, Nebraska-area firm. Operational roles have changed over Meyers’ 32 years in the industry, he says.

“In the old days, we were kind of behind the scenes. Now, your service and operations can really be a differentiator within the space,” Meyers says, noting the impact of regulations and technology. “It’s my job to think around the corner to help them continue that industry-leading service and operations.”

A spokeswoman for Ameriprise, which sold Securities America to Ladenburg for $150 million in 2011, declined to comment. At his previous firm, Meyers had worked on compliance, clearing, operational efficiency and transitions following advisor moves and acquisitions.

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Securities America did not have a previous COO, although Chief Information Officer Doreen Griffith previously handled some of Meyer's duties. The vice president of operations and three other executives report to Meyers, and he now manages Securities America’s day-to-day operations, tech and control procedures across the firm.

New York-based Atria has acquired an impressive stable of firms since it opened under founding partners Doug Ketterer and Eugene Elias, formerly of Morgan Stanley, alongside Kevin Beard, formerly of Advisor Group. Thomas H. Lee’s Lee Equity Partners provides financial backing to the firm.

The wealth management holding company emerged on the scene with its acquisition of CUSO Financial Services and sister company Sorrento Pacific Financial last year. The firm expects its acquisition of Cadaret’s 900 advisors and $23 billion in client assets to close in coming weeks.

Matthew Bassuk, Atria Wealth Solutions
Matthew Bassuk joined Atria Wealth Solutions from Cetera Financial Group.

In addition to poaching Bassuk from Cetera, Atria also hired Brian Bichler to be head of platform experience and Travis Grimm as head of program management. Cetera’s former head of recruiting now oversees advisor recruitment at Atria’s subsidiary IBDs after coming to the firm in April.

Bassuk learned of the opportunity because he has known Beard for more than 20 years, he says. He had joined First Allied Securities in 2006, before the Cetera network was formed. Bassuk’s 21 years of experience also includes prior tenures with Advisor Group firms.

Atria is striving to leverage the partners’ track records with IBDs and wirehouses to offer large-firm capabilities for advisors combined with a small firm’s accessibility to senior management, Bassuk says. He manages a team of 12 recruiters, though he expects to hire more soon.

“As opposed to gritting our teeth through advisor feedback, the management team actively seeks it,” he says. “One of the big areas of growth will be recruiting in a selective way. We want to expand the team in order to achieve that goal.”

Representatives for Cetera, which tapped LPL Financial’s former head recruiting executive in the West to be its head of business development last month, declined to comment on Bassuk’s exit. A spokesman cited a company policy against publicly discussing former employees.

Moving to a smaller organization allows executives to take on bigger roles with their new firms, notes recruiter Mark Elzweig. Bassuk’s hiring in particular comes at an important moment for Atria, Elzweig says.

“If you hire someone like that, then it really suggests that you’re intending to ramp up advisor recruiting,” he says. “Firms like hiring people that have experience at highly regarded organizations.”