Thrivent, the Midwest-based not-for-profit financial services organization founded by Lutherans, has launched a new advice and wealth management division as part of its effort to recast itself as an advice-driven company; the firm has tapped Luke Winskowski, head of the firm’s hybrid independent advisor platform, Thrivent Advisor Network, to lead it.
As part of the reorganization, Nikki Sorum will be responsible for Thrivent’s 2,700 legacy advisors that operate under its insurance broker/dealer, now known as Thrivent Advisors. She was previously senior vice president of membership and held several field and marketing roles at Thrivent.
Sorum will also lead the firm’s new "remote advice" channel dedicated to advisors who advise clients over tools like Zoom.
In an interview with WealthManagement.com, Winskowski said the remote channel would not be an extension of the firm's existing channels—the legacy advisor business and the Thrivent Advisor Network—but rather a new population of advisors who are looking to provide financial advice remotely, whether that’s through Zoom or other videoconferencing tools or on the phone.
“I think the key point is we won’t be geographical constrained there, and we’ll have more of a broader reach, so we can serve a broader set of the population,” he said.
The new channel could also be a good fit for individuals looking to enter the profession.
“You could imagine somebody starting at that type of remote advisor context, maybe then going out and building a local practice within our career model [Thrivent Advisors], and maybe one day they decide they’re ready to flip to a more independent affiliation model and take on more of that business management,” he said. “All of that would be something that we would want to offer from a career experience if we have that portfolio of channels.”
The new channel will not necessarily be targeted toward the mass affluent audience; Winskowski said there is demand for a more digital relationship from high-net-worth investors. But these three channels provide clients with different connection points to Thrivent’s advisors.
“Time will tell, especially as we come out of COVID, how much tolerance there is in the public for different types of advice relationships,” he said.
In his new role, Winskowski will be responsible for pulling together the platform, people and products and services required to deliver advice to clients across all channels.
“No matter where a client comes into contact with Thrivent—whether it be through an advisor who’s starting off their career in a more novice capacity and we’re apprenticing them into the career or it’s a person who’s been 30 years in the career and has their own established practice and maybe local identity that would be similar to a Thrivent Advisor Network practice—those clients should have access to the same great set of offerings and experience to help them get what they need,” he said.
Thrivent Advisor Network, the firm’s hybrid RIA platform launched at the end of 2019, ended 2020 at $5.4 billion, including $1 billion in organic growth. When it launched, the firm brought over 130 of its own advisors from Thrivent’s legacy insurance broker/dealer. Just last week, the RIA joined the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, allowing departing advisors to take certain customer information and solicit customers.
Last summer, TAN began recruiting outside advisors, the first being 49 Financial, an Austin, Texas–headquartered team that managed over $250 million in client assets prior to joining TAN; that firm now manages more than $500 million in assets. TAN also recruited Kevin Ellis, a Milwaukee-based advisor with $125 million, and Louis C. Ciliberti & Associates, a Plainview, N.Y., practice with $200 million in assets, from Ameriprise Financial.
“We had built in some assumptions that we’d have more tepid growth because the whole repapering exercise and all that fun stuff can really pull on productivity, and we just didn’t see that pan out,” Winskowski said.
Winskowski said the firm has had luck recruiting advisors out of the insurance broker/dealers, many of which haven’t invested much into future advice models.
“I think they’re providing an alternative to pure independence by way of their affiliation model—not unlike independent broker/dealers did in the generation before them,” said Brian Hamburger, founder, president and CEO of MarketCounsel. “Just that Thrivent Advisor Network is building a faith-based program that is leveraging an already very successful financial services firm and trying to distinguish themselves in that manner.”
Thrivent is currently looking for an executive to head the remote advice channel, and Winskowski expects to name a new head of TAN in the first quarter.