Bill Beardsley Exits LPL Retirement Partners Business

At the end of the day there just aren’t all that many people working on retirement plans, so it is only natural that firms will compete for and trade talent.

Less than two months ago, Bill Beardsley sat down with PLANADVISER for a frank and wide-ranging discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing LPL Financial’s retirement plan-focused business lines.

Beardsley articulated a number of key questions with which the firm is grappling, including one that will be familiar to anyone working for a recordkeeper, DCIO asset manager or advisory shop: “How do we make servicing retirement plan participants and sponsors scalable and efficient while also supporting different types of advisers across our broader enterprise?”

At a high level, Beardsley said LPL is looking to “create something that will not just be focused on a few hundred Retirement Partners advisers.” The leadership, Beardsley emphasized, wants to deliver something that is “deliverable across the enterprise and that leverages our scale.”

Late last week, however, word emerged that Beardsley has left the firm and will be replaced as head of the Retirement Partners business at LPL; he has reportedly accepted a new gig with Columbia Threadneedle Investments’ defined contribution investment only (DCIO) team, but that firm has not independently confirmed this information.

Though fairly short, Beardsley’s tenure at LPL came during a pivotal time for the retirement planning industry generally, and in particular for firms like LPL offering brokerage and advisory services together. When Beardsley joined LPL some five years ago, there were perhaps 300 advisers in the business who could be considered 401(k) plan experts. Since then, despite such headwinds as the DOL fiduciary rule and an increasingly litigious environment for plan sponsor clients, both the number of retirement specialists at LPL and the number working in the broader adviser marketplace have grown strongly. In the last year alone, the LPL Retirement Partners program has attracted some 200 new advisers, with 1,600 members now working on LPL’s “hybrid platform.” Nearly 1,000 other advisers support retirement plans on LPL’s corporate platform, and overall, more than 6,000 in LPL’s total adviser pool touch at least one retirement plan, many of them non-specialists using LPL’s Small Market Solution.

Naturally, given the size of the LPL operation, the entire team supporting retirement plans was not led alone by Beardsley. He was among a number of experienced leaders overseeing that area of the business.

A bit of inside baseball

Back in June, Beardsley either had little idea he would be exiting the business imminently, or he was careful not to give the impression that he was planning to leave. Instead, he happily outlined LPL’s vision for a recalibrated retirement plan business, and he seemed genuinely frustrated about what he referred to as unfair speculation by the competition that the firm’s decision to close the Worksite Financial Solutions program somehow signaled the registered investment adviser (RIA) and broker/dealer is turning wholesale away from retirement plan services.

Notably, that fated interview came exactly a year after Beardsley’s formal promotion to lead LPL Retirement Partners—a move coinciding with David Reich leaving the role—and since the firm announced plans to fundamentally reorganize the retirement-focused portion of its business.

LPL leadership at that point told PLANADVISER the internal changes would create “a new, unified strategy that aligns our teams supporting specialized clients, including retirement planning, high-net worth, insurance, and trust businesses.” Previously, LPL had structured these businesses in a way that delivered siloed support to advisers serving these niche markets. Moving forward, LPL said it would work to “unify these groups into one common entity that will provide sales and support to all our advisers and institutional clients.”

All indications are that this strategy will continue in Beardsley’s absence; no word yet on any replacement.