Working virtually — and doing it well — is the new normal for independent broker-dealers being recognized as runners up in this year’s
Investment Advisor Broker-Dealer of the Year program. Thesesix BDs earned very high marks from their advisors, whoacknowledged their service excellence by casting some 1,300total votes.
The BDs being recognized as runners up for 2020 are: ParkAvenue Securities (Division IV, over 1,000 registered representatives), Sigma Financial and Independent FinancialGroup (Division III, 500-999 reps), The Investment Centerand United Planners (Division II, 200-499 reps) andProspera Financial (Division I, up to 199 reps).
We asked leaders of these firms to discuss actionsthey’ve taken over the past year that have helped theiradvisors, what challenges they’ve faced during the pandemic and what recent changes they’ve put in place thatare likely to continue.
Working From Home
New York-based Park Avenue Securities, the IBD arm ofGuardian Life Insurance Company of America, had manytransitions in the past year — and not just due to the pandemic. William Morrissey came on boardas president in September “to lead theexpansion of Guardian’s wealth management offering,” he stated.
The former LPL Financial executivesays a key priority has been guiding ParkAvenue’s 1,890 advisors on how to bestreassure clients about the impact of thehealth crisis on their portfolios. “Thisplaybook helped our advisors addressthe fears or concerns their clients had,” he said.
The firm, which works with about $32.9 billion in assets, is
“executing on our strategy to rollout more digital options, [but]
the pandemic increased the velocity of our rollout and dra-
matically increased adoption rates,” according to Morrissey.
“We saw an increase in both overall adoption of digital tools
and the number of individual advisors leveraging those tools.”
One offering, eSignature, was added to support post-account
opening transactions, he says. The firm also “increased the
thresholds related to mobile check deposit for both clients
As Park Avenue sees “record attendance” for its new vir-
tual education and training classes, its leaders are “considering
how to leverage more … in the future,”
Similarly, Independent FinancialGroup, a San Diego-based BD with615 advisors and $32.4 billion in assets,launched electronic signature submission, as well as Voice over InternetProtocol telephony and device-levelcybersecurity prior to the virus, saysManaging Director David Fischer.
One challenge has been to maintain a personal touch with
its independent advisors, Fischer says, adding: “There is noth-
ing like in-person interaction to foster understanding and feel-
ing of a mutual objective.”
Regularly hosting Zoom meetings and calling advisors to
check in on how they’re doing is filling the gap, he points
out. IFG also has added more educational practice manage-
ment and product marketing meetings to its calendar. Video
conferencing likely will have a greater role going forward,
Jennifer Bacarella, director of firm development for SigmaFinancial Corporation, which has 648 advisors and assetsof $18 billion, says the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based firm hasinvested in TechStack — which provides CRM, document management,invoice trading and more — as well asSurvivalStack — which keeps advisorsup to date on Covid- 19, legislation, smallbusiness grants and loans.
“As these tools would be cost-pro-hibitive for many advisors individually,Sigma negotiated enterprise solutions
Making Virtual Work a Reality
Ranked highly by advisors and named the Runners Up of 2020, these BDshave excelled at adjusting staff and advisor service during the pandemic.
BY GINGER SZALA