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LPL: Advisors Looking But Not Touching

LPL: Advisors Looking But Not Touching

While leads are up, recruiting was again muted for LPL Financial in the second quarter, as advisors just aren't pulling the trigger on switching firms.

Independent broker/dealer LPL Financial (Nasdaq: LPLA) said advisor recruiting continued to be muted, with only 32 net new advisor additions in the second quarter compared to 223 in the year-ago quarter. Last quarter, the firm added only 25 net new advisors. The firm’s goal is to recruit 400 to 500 advisors per year.

On a conference call with analysts this morning, chairman and CEO Mark Casady said advisor movement is down across the industry, as the Discovery advisor database shows, so the dip is in line with competitors.

“As is typical during periods of improving market conditions following a period of an extended investor disengagement, advisors are particularly focused on supporting investor needs,” Casady said.

But the pipeline of advisors interested in moving is increasing, he added. The firm is seeing a lot of activity from advisors responding to advertising; leads are up 8.5 percent year over year. Still, advisors are just not pulling the trigger.

“There are lots of advisors who are interested in moving, but just are not to the point of actually making the move,” Casady said.

Other metrics pointed to a solid quarter for LPL. Advisor production retention was 97 percent, and advisor productivity increased 4.8 percent sequentially to $152,000, the highest level since the second quarter of 2008, said Chief Financial Officer Dan Arnold.

“We saw momentum building in Q1 with the investor reengagement that occurred at the very beginning of the first quarter,” Arnold said. “We saw that momentum sustain itself into the second quarter and continue.”

LPL posted record revenue for the quarter of $1 billion, up 12 percent from last year. Net income grew 14 percent from a year ago to $45 million.

Brokerage and advisory assets rose 12 percent year over year to $397 billion, or $29.6 million per advisor, driven by improved advisory productivity, improving equity market levels and accelerating production of 224 net new advisors added over the last year, Arnold said. Net new advisory flows were $3.7 billion, 11 percent higher than last year.

On the call, Casady also addressed the firm’s recent change to its home office supervision rules, which say that standalone advisors will be no longer be able to supervise themselves. Casady said the firm will absorb the costs of the new program this year and next year, but starting in 2015, advisors will be charged a fee—likely a percentage of their gross revenue, according to published reports. Advisors understand the change and are supportive of it so far, Casady said.

“There is cost of this to us,” he said. “What we’d like to do is cover our costs so that we can make sure that we’re not letting one part of our system support another part of our system.”

Casady said the firm will help advisors work through any issues, such as suggesting they join together to form a larger branch, which would have the necessary infrastructure for compliance oversight in place.

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