Look for more changes at Cetera Financial Group

CEO Robert Moore's resignation signals further adjustments at the IBD network

Feb 20, 2019 @ 2:14 pm

By Bruce Kelly

Robert Moore's resignation from Cetera Financial Group likely signals other changes to come at the giant broker-dealer network, according to advisers and industry observers. Those could range from the firm's owner, Genstar Capital, winnowing the ranks of management at Cetera to more emphasis on technology solutions that better focus on advisers' clients.

At some point in the future, Genstar Capital could look to reduce costs by cutting management and boosting the productivity of advisers with improved technology, those advisers and observers said.

"Will other executives leave?" asked one Cetera adviser, who asked not to be identified. "I think they have to."

The adviser added that technology the firm has recently invested in, like a highly touted facial recognition program, has not had an impact on a typical Cetera adviser's business.

The goal of that technology is to give advisers a better understanding of what clients are thinking and feeling about their money and investments. So far, that hasn't worked out for reps in the field, the adviser said. "We need to get ground-level solutions for the clients delivered faster to advisers."

On Tuesday, Cetera Financial Group announced that Mr. Moore was stepping down as its CEO at the end of March due to health reasons and is being replaced by the chairman of the firm's board, Ben Brigeman.

Mr. Brigeman will serve as interim chief executive while the company conducts a search for a permanent CEO. Mr. Brigeman is a member of the strategic advisory board of Genstar Capital, the private equity manager that bought Cetera Financial Group last summer for $1.7 billion.

Mr. Moore had been CEO of Cetera Financial Group since September 2016. He previously served as president of LPL Financial before leaving that firm in 2015.

"I thought Cetera would have exalted [president] Adam Antoniades to CEO" rather than Mr. Brigeman, said Jon Henschen, a veteran industry recruiter, who added that some of the broker-dealers in the Cetera network looked "management-heavy" when compared to other independent broker-dealers.

One adviser said Mr. Moore's resignation took him completely by surprise.

"I was shocked," said Larry Ginsburg, president of Ginsburg Financial Advisors and a regional director affiliated with Cetera Advisor Networks. "I hope it's nothing serious," he said, adding that he had full confidence in Mr. Antoniades and other senior executives.

A company spokeswoman, Adriana Senior, said in an email Wednesday morning that there were no short-term plans to make changes "systematically" to the firm's executive team.

Any changes in the longer term at Cetera could come as the board, management and advisers "are ready to consider adjustments to how Cetera is organized, if market or industry conditions warrant, so long as the advisers and institutions we support benefit from any such changes," she wrote. "It is business as usual for us."

Regarding questions about Cetera's technology, Ms. Senior wrote: "All technological development efforts are performed in partnership with our advisers, who provide feedback for enhancements as well as help prioritize our road map."

The six firms that make up Cetera's independent broker-dealer network are: Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities and Summit Financial Services Group. Roughly 8,000 registered reps and advisers are licensed with those broker-dealers.

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