The crisis on Wall Street has led many wirehouse brokers in particular to reconsider their affiliation options. So when a major producer with LPL Financial announced his decision to switch affiliations to the much smaller B/D Berthel Fisher & Co., we wondered whether this was a man bites dog story. After all, there are plenty of business consultants and pundits who argue that the future of the advice business is all tied up with scale--that an advisor must be able to efficiently offer a broad range of services to clients in order to thrive, and so must either form a large practice herself, or affiliate with a large custodial or B/D partner to offer those services in a profitable way. In the independent B/D space, no one has more scale than LPL.
It turns out, however, that Scott McKee's decision had nothing to do with size and everything to do with fit, "I had a great experience at LPL and I have nothing but great things to say about them," though he admits that he, and perhaps more important, his staff, felt an immediate synergy between small-town Oregon (his firm, The Quality Group, is based in Eugene) and the folks at Berthel Fisher's home office in Marion, Iowa. "Berthel sent out a transition team and they spent five days in my office, and the staff just loved it," he reports. Was his switch done for personal reasons? "It was nothing personal about this business; it's always for my clients," he says, though for his staff, "it's all personal--it's a hard job, there's pressure, but now when they call the person up at Berthel, they feel they have a personal relationship."
He admits to missing "some things with LPL, but with Berthel they know exactly what I'm trying to accomplish. Sometimes with LPL, which has 11,000 reps, you'd call up a person and they just wouldn't know you. These people [at Berthel Fisher] know me so well they actually give suggestions on how to help me accomplish what I'm trying to do."