President and COO, Cambridge Investment Research
Headquarters: Fairfield, Iowa
Number of producing advisors: Over 2,100
Total firm AUM: $43.9 billion
1. What makes you different?
We are unique because of our independence and longstanding commitment to our culture and core values. We feel very strongly that a broker/dealer’s values clearly drive the quality and service a financial professional receives and in turn delivers to their clients. Our key values have long been based on: flexibility (offering solutions based on being open-minded, resourceful and committed to mutual win-win); commitment (making a difference to our community through quality, excellence, and service); kindness (in all things, consideration and compassion with human touch guide our decisions); and integrity (honesty, fairness, and ethics are the foundation of our culture). We are proud that independent financial professionals who share our values choose Cambridge. Together, we focus on a common priority: the client.
2. What is your firm’s specialty or niche?
Problem-solving and innovation are key areas of support a broker/dealer can offer to advisors as part of a meaningful partnership. At Cambridge we strive to be in front of new opportunities and issues for our advisors, and we are recognized across the industry for perfecting hybrid fee and commission models beginning in the early 1990s, for being the first independent broker/dealer to enable social media access for our advisors, as well as for introducing our FAs to emergency business continuity and long-term succession plans backed by the home office.
3. Which regulations are the most burdensome or counter-productive to your business?
The dramatic increase in rules around disclosure is a burden to broker/dealers and advisors. We support legislation focused on investor protections with more effective regulation. More regulation does not automatically translate into real and meaningful protection for the public.
4. What issues are affecting your client base most significantly these days?
Our clients are our advisors and they serve their clients. Advisors across the industry are challenged by accepting responsibility for creating their own business continuity and succession plans. Succession planning with Cambridge includes acquisition strategies as we offer expert counsel to advisors interested in business growth by being a successor. At the same time we work with advisors looking to plan a staged retirement for their business. A key component of succession planning is identifying the next generation of advisors. The “Next Step” is our internship program designed to tap young professionals and match them with advisors interested in building viable succession plans.
5. What do you think is the next shoe to drop on the independent space?
Consolidation across the industry will continue, especially as smaller broker/dealers move to become part of a larger broker/dealer and operate more like a super office of supervisory jurisdiction or branch. We see this happening as firms with around 50 to 100 advisors seek to join Cambridge. These firms join Cambridge in order to continue to enjoy being independent while relieving their compliance burden. —