Retirement Industry People Moves

iCapital Network acquires Axio; Alerus Financial Corporation announces CEO transition; Commonwealth Financial Network selects senior vice president for RIA compliance; and more.

Art by Subin Yang

iCapital Network Acquires Axio

iCapital Network announced it will acquire Axio Financial LLC (Axio).

The acquisition is expected to expand iCapital’s menu of alternative investment strategies, technology stack, educational offerings and support services for financial advisers. It will also enhance iCapital’s distribution capabilities to support fund managers. Today, iCapital services more than $86 billion in global client assets across more than 790 funds.

Founded in 2010, Axio provides advisers with support in the evaluation, selection and purchase of structured notes to complement the investment portfolios of their clients. In addition, Axio serves both issuers and advisers with customized distribution support fueled by advanced customer relationship management (CRM) technology.

“iCapital is committed to being the single, comprehensive source for financial advisers seeking alternative investment opportunities to optimize portfolio performance. Advisers considering structured notes for their high-net-worth clients need best-in-class access, education, consultative support and enabling technology such as iCapital provides for other alternative offerings. Axio’s position as a leader in this market makes them an ideal enhancement to our already robust platform and product offerings,” says Lawrence Calcano, chairman and chief executive officer of iCapital Network. “We are thrilled to welcome the talented Axio team to iCapital.”

Under the agreement, Marc Paley, CEO, and the entire Axio team will join iCapital.  As managing director, head of distribution, Paley will report to Calcano, and maintain his responsibilities as leader of the Axio team, providing advisers with support in their consideration of structured notes as well as iCapital’s full menu of alternative investments.

Similar to other alternative investments, structured notes require thorough adviser education and support alongside technology that eases access, which iCapital will continue to provide and enhance within the framework of its end-to-end alternatives platform.

“The Axio team is excited about the intuitive synergies and the common purpose driving both Axio and iCapital, and we’re thrilled to combine our efforts to serve financial advisers and their clients,” says Paley. “I look forward to working together to integrate and continue to achieve our objectives.”

The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2021 after receipt of necessary regulatory approvals. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Alerus Financial Corporation Announces CEO Transition

Alerus Financial Corporation has appointed Katie A. Lorenson, the company’s current executive vice president and chief financial officer, as its next president and chief executive officer, effective January 1, 2022. 

Lorenson will also join the company’s Board of Directors upon assuming her new role. Randy L. Newman will transition to the role of Executive Chairman of the Board to ensure a seamless leadership transfer. 

In addition to serving as the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Lorenson leads Alerus’ business segments, including banking, retirement and benefit services, wealth management, and mortgage. She also spearheaded Alerus’ initial public offering in 2019.

Before joining Alerus in December 2017, she served as chief financial officer for a publicly traded regional financial institution from 2015 to 2017 and as chief financial officer for a large privately held financial institution from 2011 to 2015. Prior to those roles, Lorenson served as manager on the financial institutions team for RSM US LLP.

Newman joined Alerus, formerly First National Bank North Dakota, in 1981, and became president in 1987 and chief executive officer in 1995.

Commonwealth Financial Network Adds Executive for RIA Compliance  

Commonwealth Financial Network has hired Alexander Hansen as senior vice president for registered investment adviser (RIA) compliance. The role will be integral to shoring up Commonwealth’s enhanced support services for fee-only advisers and RIAs as the firm pursues strategic growth.

“Our industry and the regulatory landscape are changing rapidly, and so are our advisers’ business models. This is why Commonwealth is investing resources into supporting our existing and incoming RIAs, as well as helping advisers transition into the fee-only world. To these advisers, compliance represents a challenge that we happen to view as a tremendous opportunity,” says Paul Tolley, Commonwealth’s managing principal, compliance. “Alex’s strategic vision for RIA compliance support, his deep understanding of compliance technology solutions, and consultative approach will help us accelerate our RIA recruitment and position our valued advisors for success.”

Alongside senior leadership and Commonwealth’s compliance teams, Hansen will be responsible for supervising and managing all aspects of RIA compliance—including designing, implementing and updating policies, systems and processes—and responding to the evolving needs of Commonwealth, its staff and its community of advisers.

Prior to joining Commonwealth, Hansen served as chief compliance officer at Dynasty Financial Partners, where he was the subject matter expert on compliance aspects of transitioning adviser teams to independent RIA firms and assisting them with their ongoing regulatory obligations. Hansen also held high-level compliance roles at Citigroup Global Markets and Raymond James.

Hansen graduated from Marist College and earned his juris doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law. He earned an accredited investment fiduciary (AIF) designation and currently holds his FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 securities registrations.

Hansen will report to Tolley, who oversees Commonwealth’s compliance department and teams.

Riskalyze Partners with Allianz Life on Select Annuity Products

Riskalyze has launched a new partnership with Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life) within the Riskalyze Partner Store.

As part of this relationship, Allianz Life will be featured in the Riskalyze Partner Store, and platform coverage of its index variable annuity (IVA) and fixed index annuity (FIA) products will be updated on a regular basis. The Riskalyze Partner Store allows advisers to tap into materials, research and strategies from leading firms. In addition, Allianz Life has purchased licenses for its retirement and risk management consultants across the country to utilize Riskalyze when working with financial professionals.  

“We’re thrilled to establish this new partnership with Riskalyze to help demonstrate how Allianz Life products can help people manage risks to their retirement security,” says Corey Walther, president, Allianz Life Financial Services, LLC. “With our annuity products available in the Riskalyze Partner Store, financial professionals will be better able to position and validate these products as an important risk-management component within a broader, more holistic financial plan.”

The expanded relationship between Riskalyze and Allianz Life will assist financial professionals in evaluating Allianz Life’s annuity offerings that can help mitigate market risk and ascertain allocation recommendations.  

“Our partnership with Allianz Life is such an important part of empowering people to build their retirement security, and we’re excited to expand our work with them today,” says Aaron Klein, founder and CEO at Riskalyze. “From the ability to access modern risk analytics and portfolio analysis, to every user of our platform getting enhanced coverage of these innovative Allianz Life products, this partnership is a win-win for both firms.”

The partnership between the two companies began in 2014 when Riskalyze users first gained the ability to model Allianz Life solutions such as registered index-linked annuities (RILAs), also known as IVAs, to help provide client portfolios with enhanced levels of protection against downturns in the market.

Seasoned ERISA Attorney Joins Wagner Law Group

Attorney Mark Greenstein has joined the Washington, D.C. office of Wagner Law Group as of counsel.

Greenstein is an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney who comes to the Wagner Law Group after nearly 25 years in the Office of Policy and Research at the Department of Labor (DOL)’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

During his tenure at the DOL, Greenstein analyzed complex legal issues arising under Title I of ERISA, including those arising under legislation, as well under Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports. In the private sector, Greenstein represented corporate clients on ERISA Title I issues, including in connection with an application for a landmark ERISA prohibited transaction exemption.

Greenstein also served in EBSA’s Office of Regulations and Interpretations, Division of Fiduciary Interpretations, where he responded to inquiries from the public and the field on ERISA Title I issues, including fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction provisions. As acting division chief there, Greenstein supervised the production of a large volume of advisory opinions and other guidance. He also originated the analysis that served as the basis for a Supreme Court and originated drafts and analyses serving as the basis for the DOL regulations under Section 404(c) of ERISA. 

Greenstein is a former chair of the American Bar Association Tax Section Prohibited Transactions Subcommittee. He earned a master’s of law degree in taxation from New York University School of Law and a juris doctor degree from Villanova University School of Law. He received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

EBRI Hires New Research and Development Strategist

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has announced that Bridget Bearden is joining the EBRI management team as its new research and development strategist. In this new role she will be coordinating EBRI research efforts, managing the research team and workflow, amplifying EBRI research, and identifying opportunities to further evolve EBRI’s expertise for its members.

Bearden is a researcher with more than a decade of content creation for investment audiences, including institutional investors, policymakers, industry professionals, financial advisers and mass media. She is an expert in U.S. retirement plans, product distribution, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing.

Bearden is the founder of Strooga Consulting and has also served as director of institutional marketing at Edelman Financial Engines, and as director of Retirement Research at Strategic Insight, now ISS Market Intelligence. She has a Ph.D. and master’s degree in public policy from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a master’s in business administration degree in finance from Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School.

“We’re tremendously excited about adding Bridget to EBRI’s team. The past three years have been focused on building out new databases, augmenting our centers, enhancing our surveys, and developing partnerships to create more value for EBRI’s members, the industry and policymakers,” says Lori Lucas, EBRI’s CEO. “Bringing on Bridget is intended to make sure we leverage all of these capabilities and resources so that we propel EBRI’s research from the realm of valuable to invaluable for all of our constituents.”

Bearden’s new role begins September 27.

Lockton Companies Selects Employee Benefits Practice Vice President

Global insurance broker Lockton Companies has added Michelle McGrath as vice president, senior consultant for Lockton’s employee benefits practice in San Diego.

“As our benefits practice in Southern California continues to grow, we wanted to add an executive with deep expertise in the industry and market relationships,” says Sherri Harrison, market leader of Lockton employee benefits in San Diego and Orange County. “We’ve known Michelle for years and her extensive knowledge and experience as a benefits consultant will make her an invaluable resource to our clients as well as our benefits team.”

McGrath is an industry veteran with over 20 years of benefits consulting and brokerage experience. She served as principal at Mercer Human Resource Consulting in San Diego before joining Lockton, where she worked closely with clients ranging from higher education, biotech and real estate companies to medical groups, healthcare systems, skilled nursing facilities and staffing agencies. She started in the industry as compensation and benefits manager at the Foundation for Educational Achievement.

In her new role at Lockton, McGrath will be responsible for leading client relationships and service, while supporting business growth in the region and training associates.