TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey says his exit is unrelated to M&A

He brushes off a question about whether his departure has to do with a potential deal with ETrade

Jul 23, 2019 @ 12:26 pm

By Bloomberg News

TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey said his departure from the online brokerage by no later than the end of February has nothing to do with mergers and acquisitions, "pro or con."

Mr. Hockey, in a phone interview, brushed off a direct question about whether the move was related to a potential deal with ETrade Financial Corp.

"Everything we do," he said, seems to center around "M&A activity."

The exit wasn't due to any "one thing," and the decision came after a series of talks with the board, in keeping with "conversations CEOs have with boards," Mr. Hockey said. He said the details of those talks should remain confidential.

Shares of TD Ameritrade were lower by about 0.9% as of 11:36 a.m. in New York after erasing an earlier 1.3% gain. ETrade's shares gained as much as 2.4%, reaching their highest level since May 21.

On Monday, the Omaha-based company abruptly announced Mr. Hockey's departure and said the board will begin a search for a successor. The move surprised Wall Street, particularly as the stock has outperformed the S&P 500 during his tenure, and led to speculation the company may be on the hunt for an acquisition.

The exit "puts shares in the penalty box," Wolfe Research's Steven Chubak wrote in a note. "The news came as a shock as Hockey was generally well liked by the investment community," and shares performed well under his leadership, which prompted Mr. Chubak to wonder why he's "being asked to leave."

Mr. Chubak dismissed hopes the change would increase the likelihood of a combination with ETrade, as "we find such speculation unhelpful, as hope is not a strategy."

Mr. Hockey said that he's not making the change to take another job immediately and that there was no violation of conduct. He called his departure, after more than three decades at TD, a "very significant shift" for the psyche. "You get an opportunity to know who you are as a person," he said.

(More: TD won't compete with RIAs, execs say)

On Monday, TD Ameritrade also reported third-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $1.04 versus analysts' estimates of 97 cents. Average client trades per day in the quarter were about 825,000, up 5% compared with the prior year. Trades per day in July so far are 780,000.

Mr. Hockey flagged seasonal slowness, including the "summer doldrums," and added that people may have been expecting higher tax refunds.

Geopolitical tension with Iran is "having an impact," he added. At the same time, he said news that ordinarily would trigger a spike in volatility, like tankers being seized in the Strait of Hormuz, isn't doing so. "This abnormality will end," he warned.

(More: TD Ameritrade inches closer to enabling in-vehicle trading)

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