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Quick change in plans has Bob Oros headed to HighTower

Two weeks ago, public was told he was leaving top job at HD Vest after less than two years to spend time with family

Nov 14, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

Two weeks ago, it was announced that Bob Oros was leaving HD Vest Financial Services after less than two years as its CEO. The company seemed OK with the decision and pleased that he was going to stay on until March as a consultant.

How quickly those plans seemed to have changed.

Turns out, Mr. Oros is reportedly taking over the CEO position at HighTower Advisors, the Chicago-based RIA consolidator that has been making a series of personnel changes ever since a private-equity firm bought a majority stake in the company last year.

The news of Mr. Oros' hiring, which was initially reported by AdvisorHub, is contrary to the reasons given for Mr. Oros' departure from HD Vest, which was to spend more time with Boston-area family members, including a relative with health issues.

The initial report from HD Vest's parent company, Blucora, stated that Mr. Oros would be working until Nov. 15 and then stay on as a consultant until March as the search for a permanent replacement was conducted.

On Tuesday, an HD Vest representative confirmed that Mr. Oros no longer works at the Irving, Texas-based broker-dealer.

HighTower has not officially confirmed or denied the hiring of Mr. Oros and has declined comment beyond the following statement on Tuesday: "The search for a new CEO is underway as HighTower works to identify the right leader for the company's next phase of growth. Under the present leadership of Elliot Weissbluth, HighTower continues to accelerate the firm's M&A effort and reinforce its position as the premier player in the fast-growing independent advisory space."

HighTower, which is one of the leading RIA consolidators, overseeing $55 billion in client assets by 92 adviser teams with 76 offices in 33 states, surprised the industry in August when it announced Mr. Weissbluth was transitioning from CEO to the role of chairman.

While Mr. Weissbluth insisted it was his decision to vacate the CEO position of the company he founded 11 years ago, the announcement raised questions about the influence of private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners, which bought a majority ownership stake in HighTower in October 2017.

The leadership shuffle at HighTower started in April when Dave Pottruck, former CEO of Charles Schwab Corp., was replaced as HighTower's board chairman.

And in July, HighTower brought on Marc Cabezas from Edelman Financial Services to lead the M&A group.

A HighTower press release stated that the expanded M&A initiative was driven by the recapitalization agreement with Thomas H. Lee.

The addition of Mr. Oros drew some accolades from around the industry for his experience, but it also raises more questions about the ultimate impact of the private-equity influence on HighTower and how difficult it might have been to find a replacement for Mr. Weissbluth.

"Bob has bounced around a lot, and if HighTower has to hire a serial job hunter, what does that say about HighTower," asked one industry executive who did not want to be identified. "There's always been a current of a lot of stuff going on at HighTower, and it seems like the private-equity guys are looking for something different, but [hiring Mr. Oros] doesn't strike me as solving the turbulence."

Prior to HD Vest, Mr. Oros, 53, spent five years at Fidelity Investments in Boston, where he became head of the RIA segment.

Before Fidelity, Mr. Oros had stints as a national sales manager at Trust Company of America, executive vice president at LPL Financial and vice president at Schwab.

A Blucora executive confirmed that Mr. Oros did not relocate from Massachusetts to Texas for the HD Vest job, and it is not clear whether he will relocate to Chicago for the HighTower job.

Mr. Oros could not be reached for comment for this story.

Whether this next stop is a longer-term commitment or just a quick-fix project, the industry generally praises Mr. Oros' abilities.

"Bob is really likable and will likely be a calming force for the many constituents at HighTower," said Shannon Eusey, CEO and co-founder of Beacon Pointe Advisors.

"He was a heck of an attractor at Fidelity and was able to attract numerous top players from competitors and aggressively establish relationships with top RIAs who hadn't yet used Fidelity custody services, Beacon Pointe included," she added. "Elliot is widely known as a tough leader; Bob is more a man of the people."

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