Cetera Financial Group continues to pick off senior executives from key rival LPL Financial, even as the independent broker-dealer industry speculates that the two giant firms possibly could merge in the near future.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Cetera said it hired Michael Murray, most recently one of a handful of senior vice presidents of recruiting at LPL, in the role of head of business development at Cetera.
Mr. Murray had worked at LPL in recruiting, or "business development," as it is dubbed by the industry, since 2002, a remarkably long and stable run for a recruiter. Because of the demand in the securities industry for top-notch recruiters, it is rare for one to remain at one firm for such a long period of time.
"I keep hiring great talent," Robert Moore, CEO of Cetera, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "I'm excited about him joining our team. He has great experience at a top recruiting firm."
In February, Bloomberg News reported that Cetera was exploring a sale that could fetch its private equity owners as much as $1.5 billion. Cetera would not confirm the report, but said it had hired Goldman Sachs & Co. to conduct an internal review with the objective of optimizing its capital structure, lowering costs and maximizing continued investment.
That spurred one securities analyst to write a note saying that it made sense for LPL to pursue an acquisition of Cetera.
When asked whether a deal between Cetera and LPL was imminent, Mr. Moore said he had no comment but added that Cetera's strategic review was on track.
Cetera and LPL have strong ties. Mr. Moore is a former senior executive at LPL. When he left the firm in 2015, Mr. Moore was LPL's president and widely expected to head the firm after then-CEO Mark Casady retired.
In 2016, Cetera hired Jeffrey Buchheister, formerly LPL's chief accounting officer, to be its chief financial officer.
And at the start of last year, Ron Carson, a long-time star broker at LPL, left to join Cetera.
Part of Cetera's new recruiting strategy will be to use data and analytics more widely to pre-screen potential adviser recruits, Mr. Moore said.
Mr. Murray will report directly to Cetera chief marketing officer Michael Zuna.
"We're committed to developing talented leaders and strong general managers across our organization," LPL spokesman Jeff Mochal said. "We know working for LPL contributes to an individual's leadership brand."