Ron Carson: I'll leave Cetera if it's sold to LPL

Head of the Carson Group, who was affiliated with LPL for 28 years, tells his 48 partner firms he has no intention of returning to his old broker-dealer

Mar 14, 2018 @ 3:06 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

Ron Carson, the founder and CEO of the Carson Group, is ready to take his $5.3 billion business elsewhere if his current broker-dealer, Cetera Financial Group, is acquired by LPL Financial.

Mr. Carson, who moved to Cetera 14 months ago after 28 years with LPL, sent a memo to his 48 partner firms Wednesday morning, stating, "Carson Group will not remain with Cetera if it is acquired by an LPL-owned entity."

The memo, which was shared with InvestmentNews, broke Mr. Carson's silence on the topic following weeks of speculation and news reports about a possible deal brewing between the two broker-dealer firms.

In a phone interview, Mr. Carson said the memo was a way of letting the partner firms know that Carson Group has been working on various "contingency plans" should Cetera become part of LPL.

"Cetera's board always has to do what's best for their community, and part of that would be evaluating all their options," he said. "I want all of our partners to know we evaluate all of that all the time, and we always have a what-if scenario."

Mr. Carson, who said he is currently working with 15 new partner firms in various stages of transitioning to the Carson Group, emphasized that he has no desire to become a part of LPL again.

Mr. Carson would not specifically name any of the potential broker-dealer firms he is considering as alternatives to Cetera, beyond saying, "We have more than one option out there."

"Clearly, we left LPL because we didn't see the future the way they did, and the last thing our partners want is to be stuck back in that environment," he said. "From what I'm hearing form inside LPL, the service has declined considerably. I can't even imagine them to have the bandwidth to do something like this."

Neither LPL nor Cetera immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Wednesday memo follows a Feb. 28 webcast entitled, "Why I left LPL," during which Mr. Carson reiterated many of his earlier criticisms of LPL's technology and corporate management.

One of the more telling confessions from the webcast was Mr. Carson admitting that he first started thinking of a move away from LPL in 2011, despite waiting six more years to leave.

"I didn't want to leave, it's a major pain in the backside to leave," he said during his webcast.

In terms of his relationship with Cetera, Mr. Carson said Wednesday "the relationship is very good."

"What I love about Cetera is, they clearly operate under the law of abundance, by helping each other we all benefit," he said. "Unless LPL does something with them, we're staying with Cetera."

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