FirstPoint aims to guide advisers to independence

Thu Jul 28, 2011 2:54pm EDT

* Recruiting and consulting firm for financial advisers

* Aims to help advisers who want to start own shops

* Targets advisers with $500,000 in production

TORONTO, July 28 (Reuters) - FirstPoint Partners LLC, a boutique recruiting and consulting firm for financial advisers that launched on Thursday, sees big business in helping brokers navigate the increasingly complex road to independence.

The firm plans to aggressively target advisers producing at least $500,000 in annual revenue at wirehouses like Bank of America's (BAC.N) Merrill Lynch and UBS (UBSN.VX) (UBS.N) who want to start their own shops, FirstPoint Chief Executive Scott Collins and President Scott Miller said in an interview.

"We saw a need in the industry for advisers to get true independent objective advice," Collins said.

Traditional Wall Street brokerages have seen a flood of advisers exit their doors since the financial crisis, with hundreds setting up their own independent firms.

Both Collins and Miller worked as recruitment executives at LPL Financial, where they said they brought in thousands of advisers from the wirehouses to the No. 1 independent U.S. broker-dealer over the years. Before that they were advisers at Merrill.

"While we were at LPL we basically had one firm that we could show an adviser and it's kind of like an adviser showing just one mutual fund to a client -- they're not giving the whole spectrum of choices," Collins said.

Miller added that just five years ago, there were very few choices for advisers looking to shift to an independent, hybrid or Registered Independent Adviser (RIA) model. Now there is a bevy.

He pointed to HighTower Advisors, a firm consolidating wealth management businesses across the United States that provides big firm compliance, technology and handles operational tasks.

"On the other end you do have the Schwabs (SCHW.N) and Fidelitys who are hooking up with broker-dealer-like combinations that really weren't available either -- you either had to go all the way RIA or nothing," he said.

Picking the right broker-dealer or custodian can be an expensive endeavor.

For a $500,000 producer over a 10 year period, it is a $1 million decision because around 20 percent of production on average goes to their broker-dealers, Miller said.

"You don't want to make a mistake up front."

The San Diego-based firm aims to match advisers with the independent, custodian, boutique, or specialized firm that best suits them, as well as help them negotiate terms, and launch their businesses. (Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson)

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