With a string of acquisitions behind it that has patched together a network of some 9,500 advisors across eleven broker/dealers, Cetera Financial Group is now starting to centralize and streamline several back office functions, including business building consultations, recruiting procedures and investments. The effort is being led by Brett Harrison, recently appointed executive vice president of advisor growth at Cetera Financial Group, a newly created role. He will continue to serve in his current role as CEO of Cetera Advisors.
“There’s a lot of work, just acclimating everyone to a new environment, and I think now’s a good time because we’ve gotten a lot of that work behind us,” Harrison said. “We’ve been very preoccupied over the last year with all the organizational-type things that keep you very busy when a lot of acquisitions have happened. Now that that’s digested a bit, it’s a great time to focus on the fun stuff and helping build out the firm in a way that’s going to be supportive for our advisors.”
Harrison is currently hiring business consultants to roll out practice management and business building programs to the firms' advisors. Most firms within the network never had a systemic process for practice management, Harrison said, while some were more developed.
First Allied, for example, has built a business consulting and practice management portal, Pentameter, which helps advisors assess their business and identify gaps where they can improve. The assessment is based on operational efficiency, human capital, business management and succession planning. The tool then directs advisors to the people within the firm that can help them with those issues.
Harrison will also coordinate recruiting for the broker/dealers in the network, an initiative that wasn't as "daunting" as it was when Cetera was a smaller shop.
“Four of the firms were together at Cetera, so we had worked closely together,” he said. “But a group of four is much simpler than a group of 11. A lot of the firms are brand new into this system, and they had various ways of recruiting, various types of agreements for recruits, different ways to look at the financial analysis of a book of business that’s coming on. So all those things need to be done consistently.”
It will involve coming up with a consistent corporate governance structure as well as a common message for how recruiters talk to advisors about the firm.
Harrison will also manage the educational curriculum at Cetera, including the launch of a “wealth management university.” The firm is also partnering with Cannon Financial Institute to host three network-wide conferences this year with educational programs leading to new designations for advisors, such as Certified Wealth Strategist. He expects about 200 attendees at each of these.
Cetera does not plan to hold a large annual gathering for all 9,500 of its advisors. Each b/d will continue to have their individual conferences.
Harrison is also looking to centralize the investments offered through the advisors. He says he'll work with the asset management teams to make sure the firm is filling the various asset allocation buckets, and with a common due diligence process review all of the investments "so we can have as much of a consistent shelf as we can,” Harrison said.