In Philly, the former LPL super-exec talks a very RIA game but seems to hint at FINRA-as-king and getting advisors out of investment advice

April 25, 2013 — 6:35 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Joe Anthony

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Brooke’s Note: Bill Dwyer’s biographers will have an interesting time. In a sense, he is the broker’s broker. But he also helped preside over LPL’s very quick evolution to more of an RIA-facing model. He’s very much an FSI guy, talking about redundancies, which is to say that the SEC is redundant of FINRA, yet he does want FINRA to think more like the SEC on fiduciary matters. He also bangs the table for advisors to provide more advice — but only by embracing outsourcing in the form of products to free up time. So Bill Dwyer (importantly, a Red Sox fan) is somebody that people in the industry like, has as much of a chance for Nixon-in-China moments as anyone. He’s also human and driven so it’s not surprising to hear — after leaving LPL with talk about charities and family — that he’s already making noises about getting back into the for-profit game in another capacity. Thank you so much to Joe Anthony of GregoryFCA for not only blogging for us about the Gladstone conference in Philadelphia but for turning in a piece with a journalistic eye for detail, news and timeliness.

Much of the focus at the Second Annual Gladstone Associates, LLC Conference held at the Cira Centre in Philadelphia yesterday centered on the theme of M&A in today’s wealth management industry.

But the closing speech given by Bill Dwyer struck a different tone. Dwyer, just weeks removed from his departure from LPL Financial as its president of national sales and marketing, used the opportunity to assert his belief that the future of the wealth management business rests squarely on advisors’ ability and willingness to focus on — delivering advice. See: LPL’s Bill Dwyer decides to call it quits and Robert Moore is taking over his duties.

“With nearly $18 trillion in assets in the hands of the consumer, the biggest risk to individuals’ financial future is the fact that they have to manage their own retirement money — a risk bigger than the issues tied to health care or social security. The need and demand for advice has never been greater,” said Dwyer. See: How RIAs like Aspiriant and United Capital are working to put financial planning back at the center of financial planning firms.

Dwyer challenged the room of nearly 70 attendees to think about the wealth management business as a business of advice and encouraged advisors to remember why they got into the business when making choices about how to take their business forward.

“Most advisory firm founders started their careers giving advice, not running a business. As the businesses grow, they need to focus on what they have a passion for, what they do best,” said Dwyer. We’re better than this: The 10 words and expressions that should be expunged from the RIA business.

In the wings?

Dwyer, 55, who rose in the ranks at LPL from the position of recruiter in 1992 to being a top exec hauling down $2.7 million in salary and greater wealth from the company’s IPO, indicated that 100% of his time outside the home will be spent in his capacity as chairman of the Investing in Others Foundation, a non-profit established through the leadership of LPL Financial in 2006.

But he didn’t close the door regarding returning to the industry, commenting during the Q&A portion of his speech that he hoped to again work for a company that has the same sense of mission and vision that LPL has had over the years.

Dwyer added today in an interview: “I have to say that I was so engaged with LPL that it was impossible to look at or consider any other opportunities when there. I want to try something new and different, whether that is outside or inside the industry, I don’t know yet. I’m trying to stay as unbiased as possible.”

Vision, focus

Running their business has become too much of a time commitment for the best advice-givers in the business, says Dwyer, who insisted that advisors would be better positioned for success by appointing a business manager. This sentiment was shared by the day’s earlier speakers.

“When advisors start their business, they spend much of their time on developing a vision, marketing and prospecting for new clients,” asserted Paul Lally, co-founder of Gladstone Associates, LLC, who kicked off the conference with a presentation on the state of succession planning. See: The RIA M&A market continues to be a no-show, though 2012 pace is ahead of 2011.

“Once they have clients, they spend less time on their vision and prospecting. They need to focus on what they do best and get back to focusing on creating a long term vision for their business.”

What the downturn (should have) taught advisors

The real challenge for advisors today is to fight the converging forces of industry margin compression and the fact that market returns are extremely unlikely to support the growth of advisory firms.

“It used to be that more than 70% of an advisory firm’s growth would come from market return and the rest from new business development. Now that ratio is flipped,” stated Dwyer, citing an internal study that LPL had done during his tenure.

Dwyer repeatedly returned to the point that it was imperative for advisors to spend more time with their clients, delivering advice, rather than keeping clients at arm’s length.

“The most valuable asset an advisor can bring to the table is face time with a client,” Dwyer explained. “We find the industry at an interesting point. Our number one priority should be regaining the trust and confidence of the public.” See: What LPL’s Bill Dwyer had to say about recruitment, and pressure from custodians.

Mission-driven

Advisors need not only refocus themselves on giving good advice, but also on the need to give back in their communities, said Dwyer, encouraging the audience to fulfill the real obligation they have to their communities. See: Advisors: Help protect precious nonprofits by avoiding these four mistakes.

“The sense of obligation I see in advisors wanting to give back is at a never seen before level. I’ve gotten to see firsthand the amazing work advisors are doing,” Dwyer said. See: Fidelity and Schwab donor-advised funds boast banner years.

Dwyer used the opportunity in discussing his own philanthropic involvement to bring his talk back around to his larger point.

“The best advisors are the ones who are passionate, focused and mission-driven. If I were a rep today, I would want to focus on what I do best and I would not manage money. I’d focus on a division of labor that would allow me to stay in front of my clients,” said Dwyer.

Going bust trying to keep up

Before Dwyer left the stage, he left the audience with his take on industry reform:

“There is no question that the consumer needs more protection. At the same time, we need to eliminate redundant oversight of the industry to keep the costs of regulating and compliance down. Otherwise, some firms will go out of business trying to keep up.” See: An advisor fee bill hits Congress again, this time gaining qualified support from RIA groups.

Suffice it to say that Dwyer’s passion for the future of the industry didn’t leave when Dwyer left LPL.

Joe Anthony is senior vice president of Financial PR of Gregory FCA Communications


Mentioned in this article:

Gregory FCA Communications
Public Relations Firm, Blog/Social Networking Tool
Top Executive: Joe Anthony

LPL Financial
Asset Custodian
Top Executive: Bill Morrissey

Gladstone Associates, LLC
Mergers and Acquisition Firm
Top Executive: Michael Bilotta, Managing Director



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