Ten to Watch 2010-2011: Hybrid Hunter

Ten to Watch 2010-2011: Hybrid Hunter

Valerie Brown, Chief executive officer, Cetera Financial Group

Valerie Brown

AGE: 54

POSITION: Chief executive officer, Cetera Financial Group

LOCATION: El Segundo, Calif.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, chemical engineering, Oregon State University; MBA, Stanford University.

Out of chaos comes opportunity, and in fairly short order, too. In February, Lightyear Capital said it had completed its purchase of a group of broker/dealers from the troubled Dutch financial services company ING. The ING Advisors Network, led by Chief Executive Valerie Brown, was renamed Cetera Financial Group, and Lightyear tapped Brown to head the new undertaking. The 4,800 advisors at the three former ING groups - Financial Network Investment Corp., Multi-Financial Securities Corp., and PrimeVest Financial Services — watched to see what would happen next.

Among the new objectives: “To be the most referable hybrid platforms in the industry,” Brown says. She and Lightyear Chairman and CEO Donald Marron wasted no time. Less than two weeks after the acquisition was announced, Cetera announced the first of a string of hires for a new management team. It included Barnaby Grist of Charles Schwab Advisor Services, whose experience working with hybrid platforms dovetailed with Cetera's needs. And in June the company landed Susan Theder, formerly of Pershing, as its chief marketing officer. That month Cetera also launched a new tech platform, AdvisoryOnline 2.0, for Financial Network and Multi-Financial. “We can choose where we invest our capital and can do it nimbly,” Brown says. “We're going to be helping our advisors grow, and supporting our recruiting efforts.”

The company had about $75 billion in assets at the end of 2009. Cetera's play in the dually registered market makes sense, given that it's the fastest growing segment in the industry, says Dan Inveen, principal of FA Insight in Tacoma, Wash. Dually registered advisors grew from 2.5 percent of the market in 2004 to more than 5 percent a year later, he said. “It's a good defensive mechanism if you want to retain independent broker/dealer advisors who are thinking of going RIA only. It's a good offensive mechanism if you're looking to attract defecting wirehouse types,” Inveen says. “It seems like (Cetera) has got a plan.”

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