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IBD rebrands under new ownership, grabs teams from Cetera and LPL

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The independent broker-dealer formerly known as Sterne Agee has since changed its name and recruited at least seven new teams in the past 18 months.

Two years after being spun off by Stifel, SA Stone Wealth Management rebranded in part to reflect the name of current parent INTL FCStone. It picked up a credit union-based practice from LPL Financial and a former Girard Securities team that left Cetera Financial Group, the Alabama-based IBD announced on Oct. 1.

Stifel had purchased Sterne Agee Financial Services in 2015, but the regional firm sold it to FCStone the following year for approximately $50 million. Stifel CEO Ron Kruszewski said the sale stemmed from the fiduciary rule’s “disproportionate impact” on IBDs.

SA Stone’s crop of nearly 450 advisors manage about $12.5 billion in total client assets, according to Matthew Kelley, the firm’s head of business development. The two new teams bring a combined $350 million between them, Kelley says.

“I think you’re seeing a trend in the independent advisor community for a better rapport and better relationship with their broker-dealer,” he says. “The groups that have joined us are looking for a little more rapport and flexibility.”

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.
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The firm consists of primarily independent advisors, but a dozen or so teams hail from banks, credit unions or affiliated programs. MAX Wealth Management, a subsidiary of Montgomery, Alabama-based MAX Credit Union, brought advisors managing $150 million in client assets to SA Stone from LPL.

A spokeswoman for LPL declined to comment on their departure from the firm’s bank channel.

Cooley & Labas Financial Advisors’ longtime IBD Girard Securities was absorbed last year by Cetera Advisor Networks as Cetera consolidated into six firms. On Aug. 24, the firm left the network for SA Stone just a week before another ex-Girard team joined LPL, according to FINRA BrokerCheck.

In an emailed statement, Cetera spokeswoman Adriana Senior thanked Cooley & Labas for their time there and said the firm wishes them well. Cetera, she added, remains excited “about the services, technology, and support we offer our growing network of over 8,000 advisors.”

Owners Greg Cooley and Andrew Labas had spent a combined 24 years with Girard before the consolidation last year, BrokerCheck shows. The Corinth, Mississippi-based advisors’ practice manages about $200 million in client assets.

SA Stone is self-clearing, and the firm has been “re-introducing our leadership and platform” to the space after rebranding roughly a year and a half ago, Kelley says. The firm has added seven to 10 teams of varying sizes through recruiting since the name change.

“We have a significant amount of tenured leadership, we have tenured advisors,” Kelley says. “So we’re not a new firm, but we’re certainly a re-energized organization.”

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