Despite all of its recent troubles lately, Securities America pulled off a feat almost unheard of in recent industry memory. Loyal advisors circulated a letter of support containing three important statements: They are confident management can steer the firm amid its challenges and opportunities; they believe the bosses will assist parent firm Ameriprise Financial in selecting a buyer with the advisors' and clients' interests in mind; and they intend to stay to see what opportunities arise from the sale process. The question is: Will this work? When advisors discuss the letter, they are equal parts astonished, impressed and skeptical.

As one industry observer sees it, for advisors to voice support so openly for Securities America, or any other broker-dealer, is irresponsible because it pushes clients' interests into the background. "The client should be coming first, not the firm," says Scott Smith, associate director of intermediary practices at Cerulli Associates. "That is the part that strikes me as troubling. At no point should the firm's relationship to the advisor come before the advisor's relationship to the client."

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