LPL Advisory Programs

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Jun 12, 2007 12:36 am

I'm one of those guys at AGE who is being courted by Merrill, UBS, Smith Barney because of my success and type of business (80% advisory & the rest is C-shares, alternative investments, & insurance/annuities). Although the offers are extremely nice I came to AGE w/ the idea of stricking out on my own at some point. I've been doing some due dilligence on LPL, RJFS and Commonwealth. For those LPL guys out here I have a concern that I'm hoping you can aliviate because I'm really leaning the indy route at this point. From what I was able to see in BranchNet it seems like LPL's advisory platform is fairly basic. I believe they just rolled out their version of an UMA (unified managed account) but it does not allow the advisor to customize the asset allocation and it only uses SMA and mutual fund managers (no etf's). I also noticed the asset classes are limited (large cap, small cap, international & fixed income). Am I missing something and if not is LPL working on rolling out more sophisticated options for those of us who are used to them from the larger firms?

Jun 12, 2007 1:39 am

I'm just using the SAM platform, but thus far, I haven't found much that won't work in there, including ETF's, closed-end funds and alternative investments.  The only thing I know won't work in the SAM platform is SMA's, which go in Manager Select accounts.  To be honest, I haven't used the newer account designed to hold both MFs and SMA's, so I don't know if the restrictions are as severe as what you're seeing, but if they are, you might consider combining a SAM account with a Manager Select account and putting them on a combined statement.  You can group the accounts together for just about any type of performance reporting and analysis you want to run.  That's an alternative that would allow you to use just about anything you want and it's easy to journal cash back and forth between the two if you need to rebalance in or out of the SMA account.


Perhaps someone else who's used the new account can enlighten you further, but that's what I'd use if I were incorporating SMA's with other alternatives.

Jun 12, 2007 1:49 am

That sounds better. I'm not w/ LPL yet. I was setup w/ access to their system for due dilligence so I'm just asking as I see the info. Here's another question regarding this:


Does LPL have an advisory program where they allow the advisor to create an asset allocation model of their own and use mutual funds, stocks, ETF's, UIT's, bonds, etc… and set it on auto rebalancing on a specific time (every 12 months or quarter) or if it deviates from the target asset allocation by say 10%?

Jun 12, 2007 1:53 am

Indyone does LPL have any tactical/cyclical asset allocation advisory programs? Or perhaps tactical/cyclical asset allocation guidelines that the advisor can follow within one of LPL's platforms like SAM? Just in case, tactical/cyclical AA is shorter time frame (1-5 years) than the typical strategic asset allocation models that rarely change.

Jun 12, 2007 2:09 am
indywanab:

That sounds better. I'm not w/ LPL yet. I was setup w/ access to their system for due dilligence so I'm just asking as I see the info. Here's another question regarding this:


Does LPL have an advisory program where they allow the advisor to create an asset allocation model of their own and use mutual funds, stocks, ETF's, UIT's, bonds, etc… and set it on auto rebalancing on a specific time (every 12 months or quarter) or if it deviates from the target asset allocation by say 10%?


You were in good shape until you mentioned automatic rebalancing on custom models.  Custom allocations are fine, but to my knowledge, there's no auto-rebalancing unless you use LPL's OMP program, which I haven't found very robust to be honest.  I think automatic rebalancing with custom allocations including actual stocks and bonds would be a tall order, but who knows...if enough people ask for it...

Jun 12, 2007 2:13 am
indywanab:

Indyone does LPL have any tactical/cyclical asset allocation advisory programs? Or perhaps tactical/cyclical asset allocation guidelines that the advisor can follow within one of LPL's platforms like SAM? Just in case, tactical/cyclical AA is shorter time frame (1-5 years) than the typical strategic asset allocation models that rarely change.


LPL research puts out a variety of tactical asset allocation models, that frankly, I pay little attention to until compliance sends me an alert that one of my accounts is outside of the preset boundaries...I'm a very independent thinker when it comes to my models and allocations...


As far as a short-term model goes, wouldn't you simply use a more conservative, income-oriented model?

Jun 12, 2007 8:18 am

AGE has a great advisory program that's managed by their investment strategy group that is based on cyclical (3-5 forward looking outlook) asset allocation and uses ETF's as the main investments. The team meets quarterly and makes decisions on the AA and if a change is warranted they execute it for all accounts so it takes very little of the advisor's time to manage it. It's a great program and clients REALLY like the forward looking shorter time horizon story vs. the usual "strategic long-term AA" that they hear about everywhere else.

Jun 12, 2007 9:53 am

LPL has a recommended ETF model for the SAM platform (our version of a wrap account).  They have three "models" for each of five risk classes (aggressive, growth, growth w/income, income w/moderate growth, and income w/capital preservation).


They have their "standard" model with about 8 asset classes (value and growth of large, mid, and small, then large foreign, and emerging markets), they have a "core" model with 4 asset classes (large, mid, small, and foreign), and they have a "concentrated" model with two asset classes (domestic equity and large cap foreign).  The income models have a fixed income (and even a REIT) asset class as well.


So all in all, there are about 15 (5 risk types X 3 portfolios) total "models" to choose from.


I believe these models are updated quarterly. I find them to be a little lacking on the international side of things (usually less than 10% foreign), but that's just me.


They don't have auto rebalancing .  I wish they did.

Jun 12, 2007 1:18 pm
indywanab:

AGE has a great advisory program that's managed by their investment strategy group that is based on cyclical (3-5 forward looking outlook) asset allocation and uses ETF's as the main investments. The team meets quarterly and makes decisions on the AA and if a change is warranted they execute it for all accounts so it takes very little of the advisor's time to manage it. It's a great program and clients REALLY like the forward looking shorter time horizon story vs. the usual "strategic long-term AA" that they hear about everywhere else.


That's a plus for AGE, but I'm guessing that pretty much everywhere you look, you'll find something you like better (I love the tech platform at LPL) and something that you'll really miss.  Nobody is perfect...find the best fit and run with it.

Jun 12, 2007 1:39 pm

Agreed. I was REALLY impressed w/ the tech platform at LPL but my clients & I have gotten used to more sophisticated advisory platforms and taking a step back would not be a good move. Frankly not being able to rebalance automatically is a huge inneficiency in my view. I'd rather be focusing on other more important issues than having to manually adjust or rebalance each and every account. I'm actually surprised that LPL has not addressed this because I'm sure this has to be something that reps that do primarilly advisory business are used to. If they don't have the portfolio management tool to allow this at the very least they should significantly expand their existing platform that has overlay portfolio management and rebalancing to allow reps to customize the models and use more asset classes than currently available.


Jun 12, 2007 1:48 pm

A couple of comments:

1.)   Their "multi asset/multi manager" SMA program does have rebalancing built into it.  I think it's called "Personal Wealth Portfolios".  This program, like others on the street, uses a mixture of SMA managers, ETF's, etc to give you a fully diversified portfolio in one account.  I don't use the program so don't rely on my description.

2.)  Apparently they plan to roll out a mutual fund wrap program with auto rebalancing very soon.  It will allow you to invest in portfolios based upon LPL's mutual fund research.

Jun 14, 2007 9:09 am

I'm an AGE->LPL guy in the last few months.  You'll see some negatives coming from AGE--there is no equivalent to CAAP+, as you've mentioned... there are some positives though, see below.  On the plus sides:


* The PWP is no more or less flexible than the AGE equivalent.  LPL has more manager selection overall in their stable of separates and gives YOU the choice of which manager in a sleeve you want to use (cons/mod/aggr), rather than dictated by AGE, which on the manager selection both in separates and funds is hit-or-miss, with some dramatic misses.


* I had an LPL advisory consultant in my office last week.  PFA-like auto rebalancing is coming on the fund side in the next few months.  The Portfolio Review Tool is somehow linked into it--that is one WICKED tool, by the way.  Between Portfolio Manager and PRT it blows AGE's client reporting out of the water.


* My opinion is that the technology at LPL will be ahead of the wires for some time to come.  They are far, far ahead of AGE in the places that matter and they'll be worried more about integration than tech expansion for a long time.


* SAM is MUCH more flexible than Portfolio Advisor, which is the best comparison.  If you want PFA-like rebalancing, it's coming.


* The ethos of LPL is one of trusting its advisors to do their jobs, rather then drop everyone down to the lowest common demoninator level (e.g. "if we give this terrific tool/flexibility to 7,000 FC's, 5 will go bad with it.  We can't do it.")  LPL's first inclination is to give you the sun/moon/stars (SAM), where you have the ability to treat each client uniquely.  Yes it's more work, but we're being paid a lot of money to let an algorithm tend to our clients' needs.  You have the ability to structure each account to exactly fit that client, not fit them into one of 5 models.  Rejoice in that, THAT is what adds value.


* Sounds like you want to be more than a broker.  GOOD.  Financial planning tools are available--not just one, but 6.  That's a major committment on LPL's part to bending to fitting the to FC's needs, not the easy way of just dictating "here's your software".  The fastest route to being a commodity is to lean on asset allocation from a computer to keep people happy.  Won't last forever.  You want to meet needs?  You'll identify them far better than with the 'financial illustrations' AGE permits because they don't want the liability of financial planning/fiduciary.  This is the most important point of all.


Last thought--not ONE of my clients had to sell/buy to move.  Be careful--a small number of managers don't match up on the separates side and a couple managed futures as well, but I didn't have any gaffes.  And what's new will blow the doors off you.


I just saw a major difference in culture and their approach to US than I did at AGE.  It's very refreshing.  You'll like it.

Jun 14, 2007 9:56 am

charliefoxpapa,


That's great news! I spoke w/ the LPL recruiter about these very same concerns and he told me something similar to what you say in terms of what they are planning on rolling out. Not only that but he asked if I would be willing to talk w/ some of their advisory services management team about what people like me see as a weakness in LPL's advisory offerings as compared to the top firms. Finally he said that if the enterprise rebalancing tool they are planning on rolling out is not up to snuff for my practice that they will get me whatever 3rd party software out there I think would do the job for me. Wow! What a difference in attitude these guys have compared to AG and the other major wirehouses. It's like they are more than willing to change their ways of doing business to accomodate me instead of the other way around. That's refreshing!!!


You're absolutely right on in terms of the true financial/wealth management capabilities and services. I DON'T see myself as a broker and the limits AG and other firms put on me regarding what advice I can give and whether or not I charge for that advice is just frustrating as heck to me. Glad to see that I am free to charge hourly, per project, etc... and truly put my experience, MBA in Financem, & CFP to good use and GET PAID for it. No longer will I have to give free advice in the hopes the person has enough assets that can rollover so I can manage them.


Can't wait to make the move.

Jun 14, 2007 12:19 pm

"It's like they are more than willing to change their ways of doing business to accomodate me instead of the other way around."  That's about dead on.  Granted there are limits, but I seriously think LPL has a better mindset on accomodation than the rest.  I fear the larger they get, the less it'll be possible, but they're pretty darn big right now and it's working.


Go to San Diego if you can and kick the tires.  Look for the company mission statement on everyone's desks and see that it focuses on you, the advisor, and they walk the walk on it, I think.  The trip is WORTH it.


Don't get me wrong, it is not perfect.  The only way it could be would be if I built it, but then you probably wouldn't like it and vice versa... it's our nature!  But it's as close as you will likely get to what you're looking for, if want good tools to do your work and you're looking to be treated like an educated adult who's got good intentions for his clients and a desire to be the boss of your world.


I miss AGE for what it was and I appreciate it more after looking around at my options some time back.  But I know one thing: there is not one negative for your clients if you move to LPL. 


From a pragmatic point of view, you have a terrific asset in the course of your move that I didn't have--the 'boogeyman' of WB sitting on AGE.  I saw an analyst on Bloomberg on the day the deal went down, he said "the first call I would make today is to the St. Louis coroner, to report the death of a culture."  Good luck.

Jun 14, 2007 12:39 pm

Great stuff...and absolutely make the trip to San Diego...I was blown away by what I saw...and it just keeps getting better...


Portfolio review tool is wicked, but even the quickie performance reports are excellent for client reviews.  The more I discover, the more I realize that there's great stuff in the system that I have no clue about...


...and the freedom to run your business as you see fit is priceless...

Jun 14, 2007 3:10 pm

I'm 100% going to visit SD. I'm also doing DD on Commonwealth and my plan is to make the move over the next year so I can be ready to hit the road from day 1. Over the coming year I'll work on my biz & marketing plan, deal with the logistics of finding an office and dealing with all that and creating the company (name, website, marketing collateral , services & fees, etc...) so I'll have time to really get to know what BD is best suited for me and my practice.


Any concerns on the size of LPL? The fact that they are now so big and growing makes me wonder if they will fail to continue to provide the same level of service as their support people get stretched and whether or not they will have to manage to the masses.

Jun 14, 2007 3:17 pm

I am with LPL. Great BD by far the best I have ever been with!


My only concern is the IPO coming in the next couple of years if not next year!!!! 

Jun 14, 2007 3:20 pm

I'm concerned about that IPO as well. Wonder how the company will change once management's primary responsibility is that of the shareholders.

Jun 14, 2007 3:30 pm

On the question of size... when I was in San Diego, they showed me the chart of how their response times to service center calls fizzled at one point and then how they staffed to handle them and bring it back in line.  They're very sensitive to that.  That's a positive.


The one dynamic that I find really interesting with all of these indies is that they HAVE to be responsive.  You've got thousands of advisors who are putting their name on the shingle, not yours, and who are not dependent on a brand or on the firm for the lease, payroll, etc... basically, anyone can fire LPL and repaper their accounts with pretty minimal disturbance (I say that with a quiver, having just repapered all of my accounts!).  As people have asked me to describe my relationship with LPL on business terms, I call them my 'contracted back office'.


So unlike the wires, who practically dare you to leave with the overhanging message that they will chase your book (see numerous, numerous messages on these board to that effect!), indy firms have to fight to keep you happy to keep you there, because there are no ties holding you.


So if they keep growing and lose touch with their advisors, they'll leave.


If the IPO and life as a public company changes the flavor, they'll leave.


If the phone is promised to be answered in SD in three rings and it's not, they'll leave.


How's that for a demanding environment?  I friggin love it.

Jun 14, 2007 5:05 pm

That's the one concept (you can fire your backoffice contractor at any point if service degrades) that gives me hope that I or my clients would not be so affected.


Does LPL have anything like a Private Client Group that reps can tap into for technical expertise when dealing with complex clients or cases? That's one advantage of working at a large firm. That I can "market" the experts available to me and my clients and I can leverage their expertise (attorneys, CPA's, CFA's, etc...) to bring high end advice to clients. I read somewhere that LPL was planning on rolling out a HNW services group or something like that to help advisors in this area.