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John Clendening
John Clendening

Blucora CEO John Clendening Steps Down

Executives assure advisors the move won’t affect the progress of the wealth management business and its recently announced acquisition of HK Financial Services.

Blucora, the parent company of Avantax Wealth Management, the tax-focused independent broker/dealer created from the acquisitions of HD Vest and 1st Global, said CEO John Clendening has stepped down from his role, due to differences in views on his authority as CEO. On an investor call Thursday, Todd Mackay, chief business operations and development officer, said the news would not impact Avantax initiatives from moving forward, nor would it affect the acquisition of HK Financial Services, a CPA-focused registered investment advisor, announced earlier this month.

The news comes a little over a week after CFO Davinder Athwal stepped down from his role at Blucora.

The company said it expects to name a new CEO by the end of this month. In fact, the board believes they’ve already identified that person but want to be respectful to other parties involved, Mackay said. In the meantime, the office of interim CEO will comprise Mackay, Avantax President Enrique Vasquez, TaxAct President Curtis Campbell and Chief Legal Officer Ann Bruder.

Blucora announced earlier this month plans to acquire HKFS, a hybrid RIA with $4.4 billion in client assets. The acquisition, expected to close by the end of the first quarter, would bring Blucora’s total assets to more than $72 billion, including 42% in fee-based advisory assets. HKFS, which uses ProEquities as its b/d, will operate as a third division of the company, in addition to Avantax and TaxAct.

“This pending transaction reinforces our strategy of delivering tax-advantaged wealth management solutions to our advisors, CPA firms and end clients,” said Mackay on the call. “Today’s news has no impact on our excitement or focus on the HKFS acquisition, which is expected to create new growth opportunities, margin improvements through top-line and other synergies.”

Mackay assured advisors that Avantax would continue with its organic growth efforts, including mapping and analyzing the advisor experience; rolling out regional advisor support teams; introducing new and comprehensive training and support program Avantax University; and having regional consultants keep advisors on track.

“We’ve published a robust action plan to advisors and have been successful executing to the deadline to achieve results that will continue to integrate platforms, streamline functionality and improve the overall advisor experience,” he said.

The unit will also continue to roll out its proprietary tax smart investing platform to advisors. Its goal was to roll it out to 500 advisors by the end of last year; it exceeded that goal by adding nearly 900 advisors to that platform as of year-end 2019.

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