President and COO (and mother of Eva Thorsell, born October 2011) Cantella & Co.
Established: 1952 by the son of a Sicilian immigrant
Number of producing advisors: 201
Total firm AUM: $3.9 billion in AUM; consult on over $5 billion in 401(k) plans
1. What makes you different?
This company is a true example of the American dream. We’ve been in business for 60 years and our entrepreneurial spirit is as strong as the day we started. FAs and employees have always had direct access to management and provide regular input into the direction of the firm, as was the vision of founder, Vincent Cantella. Throughout that time, we’ve adapted to changes in the industry, while keeping our core values of independence and focus on personal relationships intact. I’d say that the key points that make us different are longevity, flexibility and accessibility. Plus we partner with three clearing firms. And the Cantella family history is great!
2. What is your firm’s specialty or niche?
Our niche is our culture. Most b/d and RIA services are a commodity; the real differences show up in the culture. Our flexibility and close relationships enable us to provide the true support our FAs need to shine in their own specialty areas. As cliché as it sounds, we’re looking to partner with the right FAs who want to build a long- term partnership with us and their clients; we dance with many, but marry few. We have no interest in “whale hunting” or taking unnecessary risks.
3. Which regulations are the most burdensome or counter-productive to your business?
The new suitability rule has significantly increased the FAs’ paperwork burden. It’s challenging to explain to FAs why they need to spend more time on paperwork when they see it as time taken away from servicing clients. While the new rule certainly provides an opportunity to learn about other assets and potentially further enhance relationships with clients and their families, we’re getting some push back, particularly from high-net-worth clients, as they feel some questions are too intrusive.
Our FAs work with numerous 401(k) plans, including some Fortune 500 companies, so 408(b)(2) was very time intensive as well.
4. In an environment where recruiting is tough, how do you go about doing it successfully?
Cantella was built by word-of-mouth with little to no marketing, so we continue to rely on referrals from FAs who love us. First and foremost, we need to keep current FAs happy. In addition, we do targeted recruiting—we cannot be all things to all people (nor do we want to be), so we carefully identify FAs who may be a good match before approaching them. Our current FA base also offers some recruiting opportunities for FAs who have an interest in succession opportunities.
5. What do you think is the next shoe to drop on the independent space?
I think we’re going to see more FAs move to an RIA-only model. But I think we’ll see many reconsider this model once the RIA regulatory environment more closely resembles the b/d world. In the interim, perfecting a hybrid solution, where both the b/d and the FA/RIA are profitable, will be extremely important.