In early 2012, independent broker/dealer Pacific West Securities was hit with a $2.1 million arbitration award over sales of tenant-in-common (TIC) real estate investments—a situation where more than one entity owns a piece of property. The firm, already struggling with thinning profits, decided it was time to close its doors and move its reps (240 at the time) to Cetera Advisors. Erinn Ford, then Pacific West’s chief operating officer and head of marketing, handled the situation gracefully, by all accounts.
“She was very objective in the strengths as well as the weaknesses of their old broker/dealer, Pacific West, in what struggles they had with the excessive amount of TIC business they were doing toward the late 2000s, and why they ultimately sold,” says Jonathan Henschen, an industry recruiter. “You talk to some of the bigger broker/dealers, and you just never get that.”
Ford was recently named president of Cetera Advisors. Earlier this year, the entire Cetera network was purchased by RCS Capital Corp., run by Nicholas Schorsch, one of REP.’s Ten to Watch for 2014.
The business is in her blood. Bob and Loretta Elderkin, Ford’s parents, launched Pacific West in 1972, and Ford came to work for the firm at age 21. Over the next 22 years, she worked in nearly every capacity—running, managing and leading a small IBD and RIA.
“My parents really were pioneers and had the foresight with the family company to say, ‘Anything we do, any day we walk into the office, in a service business it’s our job to earn the right with our advisors,’” Ford says.
Ford still runs the firm on that philosophy. She was integral to the integration of Pacific West into Cetera Advisors, and since the close of the deal, the advisors that came over in the transition have increased production by 30 percent. Cetera Advisors’ 1,200 reps collectively have a compounded annual growth rate of 17 to 18 percent.
She is currently piloting a new service model geared toward different business structures within the firm, including practitioners, branches and teams.
Time will tell what Ford’s role will be in the integration of Cetera into the larger Schorsch empire. She is part of an executive team that drives service and technology improvements across the firm’s four b/ds; there are currently 18 projects they’re working on across Cetera. With the acquisition, the team will take inventory of those 18 projects to determine which ones make sense to go across the RCAP network.
“With growth comes challenges, with change comes challenges, but I will be a person that, instead of talking about them, I will dive in.”