Even though the 2,000 or so financial advisors at John Hancock Financial Network manage several billions of dollars in 401(k) plan assets, the company has never had a top-down leadership with a focused strategy.

Until about a week ago.

That is when the broker-dealer division of the life insurance giant announced it hired Bruce Harrington to build a retirement business platform and spearhead business growth through that strategy.

At John Hancock, he will beef up its retirement plan and 401(k) businesses. That will include building an internal 401(k) sales team and capturing more rollover business.

There are plenty of competitors out there, including Charles Schwab [SCHW], Fidelity Investments, and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, a division of Morgan Stanley [MS]. There are opportunities for growth, however, according to Harrington.

“There is always pressure,” Harrington said in a phone interview on Thursday morning. “This is a fairly complex field, and there are not a lot of people with extensive experience in it within the broker-dealer community.”

For now, Harrington is busy developing the details of a strategy for the new platform, and plans to roll it out in the next three to six months.

Harrington, however, is one of those professionals who knows his way around the retirement planning business. He has spent the better part of his career spearheading efforts to develop those types of products at leading companies like LPL Financial. When he was at the independent broker-dealer, Harrington served as senior vice president in LPL Financial's Retirement Solutions Division, responsible for developing product and marketing offerings. There, Harrington widened the retirement plan offerings to LPL’s independent advisers and launched the Retirement Plan Consulting Group. That enterprise introduced products like the Retirement Plus Program, which provides corporate retirement-plan products, record keeping and plan administration services to independent advisors working with clients’ employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Arguably, Harrington could have just stayed at LPL Financial. The job certainly seemed invigorating enough. But when the opportunity to run the retirement planning platform at John Hancock Financial Network, the broker-dealer division of the life insurance giant, Harrington jumped. He held its mutual fund and other investment products in high regard, and since the post was within its broker-dealer unit, a familiar channel, it made sense, he said.

 * * *

Also on the move this week:

Cetera Financial Group, based in Los Angeles, hired Kian Rafia as director of advisory products, to build industry-leading products for its wealth management platform. He had been senior analyst, investment products and platform, at LPL Financial. Also, Alex Kaye joined Cetera as a vice president of research, responsible for all internal and third-party research. Kaye was a senior portfolio manager, vice president and investment committee member of Wilshire Associates, in Santa Monica, Calif.

Citi Private Bank hired Donald Lewis as a director and private banker. Lewis, who was a senior vice president and wealth advisor for Wells Fargo Private Bank, will be based in Citi’s Short Hills, N.J., office.  Also, Citi hired Robert Blais and Hoyt Gier as managing directors in its Seattle office. Both joined Citi from Goldman Sachs & Co., where they co-headed the firm's largest private wealth management team, also in Seattle.

ETFS Marketing has appointed Patrick Carter to its U.S. sales team, focusing on its California and west coast markets. He had worked at Dimensional Fund Advisors, previously, where he led efforts to grow assets under management in the qualified retirement area, and did so by developing business sources in the consultant and registered investment advisor channel.

KBS Capital Markets Group hired Patrick Browne as a regional vice president. He will develop and manage broker/dealer and registered investment advisor relationships on behalf of KBS-CMG for KBS Real Estate Investment Trusts, responsible for Indiana and Southern Michigan.  

Leslie Ann Bunim has joined RS Investments, a San Francisco-based investment management firm as an equity analyst, focused on the consumer sector. She worked at New York City-based J.H. Whitney Investment Management, where she was an investment analyst and principal of The Whitney Green River Fund.

WilmerHale, a Boston-based law firm, appointed J. Kevin McCarthy as a partner in its securities practice. He had been general counsel for the Cowen Group, an alternative investment management firm, where he was responsible for the management and supervision of all legal, compliance and regulatory staff globally. McCarthy was also the principal legal and regulatory liaison on behalf of the Cowen Group and its regulated subsidiaries and affiliates with all regulatory bodies and agencies in the US, UK, Europe and Asia, and was the corporate secretary to the Cowen Group’s board of directors. 

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