Retirement Industry People Moves

Mercer Advisors acquires two firms; First Trust Capital Partners acquires direct indexing firm; New York Life appoints head of retail annuities; and more.

By DJ Shaw


Mercer Advisors Acquires 2 Firms

Mercer Global Advisors Inc., a national registered investment adviser, has announced the acquisition of Starks Financial Group Inc. Starks is a financial planning and wealth management firm located in Asheville, North Carolina, with assets under management of approximately $250 million.

“As a women-owned and operated firm, we understand the unique challenges facing women. As a result, we have built a practice that not only serves the interests of women, but those of same-sex partners, along with others seeking our brand of deep financial planning,” says Dawn Starks, who founded Starks Financial Group in 1999. “We were also at that age and stage of needing to put together a succession plan for our practice to help ensure uninterrupted care for our clients should something unforeseen happen to either of us.”

Mercer has also announced the acquisition of Harrison & Company Wealth Management LLC. Located in Roanoke, Virginia, the wealth management firm serves approximately 120 clients with approximately $150 million AUM. HCO was founded by senior partner Bruce Harrison. HCO’s team will also be joining Mercer Advisors.

First Trust Capital Partners Acquires Direct Indexing Firm

First Trust Capital Partners LLC has announced the signing of a definitive agreement to purchase Veriti Management LLC, a direct indexing asset management and financial technology company. FTCP is an affiliate of First Trust Portfolios L.P. and First Trust Advisors L.P. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close on July 31.

Through this acquisition, First Trust adds direct indexing to its platform of investment solutions.

The partnership with the Veriti team will allow for customization through direct indexing, says Ryan Issakainen, senior vice president, ETF strategist at First Trust, and will allow advisers to deliver personalized tax-advantaged solutions that better align with the investment objectives, values and interests of its clients.

Veriti was built to provide direct indexing solutions to institutions and wealth management firms. Its approach to asset management focuses on delivering advisers scalable strategies for driving tax-advantaged returns and customization for individual investors. 

Veriti launched its “Console” solution to streamline tasks and minimize the time required to create fully customized equity portfolios focused on tax efficiency and responsible investing.

First Trust, through First Trust Advisors L.P., counts more than $203 billion in assets under management or supervision as of May 31, and focuses on providing trusted investment products and advisory services. Veriti’s direct indexing technology will be a welcome addition for investors that are seeking customization that is not currently available in an exchange traded fund or mutual fund format.

Chapman and Cutler LLP is serving as legal counsel to First Trust. Berkshire Global Advisors is serving as financial adviser and Nixon Peabody is serving as legal counsel to Veriti Management.

New York Life Appoints Head of Retail Annuities

Mutual life insurer New York Life has announced the appointment of senior vice president Todd Taylor as head of retail annuities. In this role, Taylor will lead the product development and management, strategy, third-party sales and service, marketing and operations functions for New York Life’s retail annuity business line.

Taylor joined New York Life in 2008 as part of the company’s actuarial training program. Since then, he has held roles across the insurance and annuity businesses and corporate areas, including positions in pricing and product development, financial projections and planning and corporate strategy and internal consulting. Most recently, he led strategy and analytics for retail annuities.

Taylor is also the author of several articles and white papers that focus on retirement topics, including the value of income annuities in retirement income strategies, the impact of behavioral economics on retiree spending behavior, and healthcare expenditures in retirement. He holds a patent for the “Efficient Income Frontier,” a proprietary retirement product allocation framework.

He holds a B.S. in economic analysis and math from Binghamton University and is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. Taylor is a board member for the Insured Retirement Institute and a member of advisory boards for the American College’s Center for Retirement Income and the Investment and Wealth Institute’s Retirement Management Advisor Commission.

Taylor takes over the role from Dylan Huang, senior vice president and head of retirement and wealth management solutions, following an expansion of Huang’s responsibilities. Huang now oversees a portfolio of businesses comprised of retail annuities, long-term care solutions, NYLIFE Securities LLC (broker/dealer), and Eagle Strategies LLC (registered investment adviser).

Security Benefit Appoints Chief Operating Officer 

Security Benefit, a provider of retirement planning products and solutions, has announced the appointment of Jacquline Morales as senior vice president, chief operating officer. As COO, Morales will oversee business operations and help execute the company’s growth strategy. She will report directly to Doug Wolff, incoming CEO. Morales will lead the operations and technology portion of Security Benefit’s manufacturing group. 

Throughout Morales’ more than thirty-year career, she has held leadership roles and helped chart growth strategies, most recently at a startup in New York, where she has served as chief insurance officer. Prior to that, she was with Bestow in Dallas, where she was the chief insurance officer and board director. 

Previous leadership positions include COO and board director for Legal & General America and several different head of operations positions during her 10 years at AXA Equitable. In these roles, she was responsible for establishing scalable infrastructure internally, leading digital transformation initiatives, implementing new tools to create operational efficiency and overseeing merger and acquisition activity.

Morales received her bachelor’s degree in humanities and MBA in finance from Southern Methodist University. She is a licensed insurance agent, has served on numerous committees for industry trade groups and is often cited by the media as an expert in life insurance and annuities. 

Mutual of America Financial Group Names Executive Vice President and Head of Fixed Income

Mutual of America Financial Group, a provider of retirement services and investments to organizations and individuals, has announced that Chris Malfant has joined Mutual of America Capital Management LLC as executive vice president and head of fixed income.

Malfant will be responsible for all aspects of Capital Management’s fixed-income portfolio management. Specifically, he will focus on asset allocation and oversight of the Mutual of America Life Insurance Company general account, Mutual of America Investment Corporation funds and Mutual of America Variable Insurance Portfolios Inc. portfolios, as well as institutional accounts. He will lead a team of fixed-income portfolio managers and traders and report to Stephen Rich, chairman and CEO of Mutual of America Capital Management LLC.

Malfant has nearly two decades of experience in fixed-income investment management. Prior to joining Mutual of America, he was head of investment-grade corporate bonds and portfolio manager for American International Group. Prior to this, he served in the U.S. Navy on both the USS Donald Cook and the USS Kinkaid, where he served with distinction, earning the Donald Cook leadership sword and being named the No. 1 Division Officer.

Malfant earned an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is a graduate of Duke University, where he earned a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in environmental science and policy.

Voya Financial Announces Leadership Succession Plan

Voya Financial, Inc., a health, wealth and investment company, has announced that its board of directors has appointed Heather Lavallee as the company’s president and CEO-elect as part of Voya’s planned succession process. She currently serves as CEO of Voya’s wealth solutions business, and will succeed Rodney O. Martin, Jr. Lavallee will become CEO on January 1, when Martin, who also serves as chairman of Voya’s board of directors, will assume the role of executive chairman. Lavallee has also been appointed to Voya’s board of directors effective immediately.

Prior to leading Voya’s wealth solutions business, Lavallee served as president of Voya’s tax-exempt markets and, prior to that, as president of the company’s employee benefits (now health solutions) business; she joined Voya in 2008. Lavallee’s 30-year career also includes leadership roles at Mutual of Omaha and Sun Life New York Insurance and Annuity Company.

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