Retirement Industry People Moves

Newfront adds senior vice president to retirement team; Mercer Advisors acquires Texas-based Mark D. Cunningham; Pure Financial Advisors adds new CEO; and more.

By DJ Shaw



Newfront Adds Senior Vice President to Retirement Team

Newfront, the tech-driven insurance brokerage based in San Francisco, has announced that former Microsoft leader Greg Kaplan will serve as senior vice president for its retirement services team

Kaplan joins from Specialized Bicycle Components, an innovative bicycle manufacturer, where he was head of strategic finance and operations. He brings 15 years of experience in the financial industry.

Kaplan spent nearly a decade on the finance team at Microsoft, where he developed deep financial market expertise managing multi-billion-dollar investment and hedging portfolios, before he joined Specialized as treasurer. He quickly took over real estate and facilities, operations, logistics, and planning at the company.

The team’s leadership is transitioning from former Newfront retirement services president Chris Call, who will shift his focus to strategic consulting and talent development.

Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. Announces Recruitment of the Meridian Wealth Group

Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., a wealth manager, investment bank, and a subsidiary of Oppenheimer Holdings, has announced the successful recruitment of the Meridian Wealth Group, a Nashville-based wealth management practice. Meridian, led by John Wade, will join the firm’s private client division and work out of its Nashville office.

Wade, who will serve as executive director, investments, is a native of Tennessee and has over 20 years of financial services experience. Meridian works with clients to create, grow, protect and preserve wealth, and offers legacy planning services. Joining him on the team are Aaron Fiske, director, investments, along with two experienced associates.

Mercer Advisors Acquires Texas-Based Mark D. Cunningham

Mercer Global Advisors, Inc., a national registered investment adviser, has announced the acquisition of Mark D. Cunningham, a sole proprietorship affiliated with Raymond James. Cunningham, a respected wealth management firm located in Bellaire, Texas, serves clients with assets under management of approximately $360 million.

Mark Cunningham founded Cunningham in 1997. His team has been helping clients achieve financial freedom through comprehensive wealth management and financial planning. Their approach to financial planning focuses on financial goals, aspirations, and investment needs that are specific to each client. Rather than asking clients to settle for an off-the-shelf investment program, Cunningham’s team provides each client with personalized financial planning based on their goals, time frame and particular tolerance for risk in their pursuit of personal financial goals. They believe in providing the right combination of financial services, support and guidance that make the most sense for each client.

Pure Financial Advisors Adds New CEO

Pure Financial Advisors, LLC has announced the addition of Abbas Hasan to the executive team as CEO. Hasan will be responsible for overseeing all operational aspects of Pure, including business operations, human resources, compliance, and technology. He will lead the operational team as it continues to build a scalable platform designed to support advisers and clients as well as strategic initiatives including a state-of-the-art client portal, seamless onboarding of advisers with existing clients, and M&A integration.

Heffernan Retirement Services Acquires Investment Solutions Group

Heffernan Financial Services, a division of Heffernan Insurance Brokers, has announced the acquisition of Investment Solutions Group located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jerome Pfeffer founded Investment Solutions Group in 1999 and joined Heffernan Financial Services effective September 1. Investment Solutions Group is the first office in the state of New Mexico for Heffernan Insurance Brokers and is Heffernan’s 18th office overall.

Pfeffer has more than 27 years of experience in the industry specializing in retirement plan consulting and wealth management advisory services. He is experienced in developing qualified and non-qualified retirement plans for the medical profession, non-profit hospitals, and charitable organizations. Similar to Heffernan Financial Services, the advisers at Investment Solutions Group are registered representatives with, and offer securities through, LPL Financial.

Lindsay & Brownell Combines with EisnerAmper

Global business advisory firm EisnerAmper announced that the partners and colleagues of the La Jolla, California-based accounting and advisory firm Lindsay & Brownell CPAs & Advisors are joining EisnerAmper in a transaction expected to close in December.

Founded in 1992, LB Advisors has 12 partners and 74 professionals providing tax, accounting and business consulting services to individuals, nonprofits, closely held businesses, trusts and estates.

Choreo Announces Acquisition of Enso Wealth Management

Choreo, LLC, an independent registered investment adviser focused on designing and building financial solutions that improve the well-being of clients, their families and the communities where they live, has announced that it has agreed to acquire Enso Wealth Management, a Petaluma, California-based firm with approximately $1.8 billion in assets under management.

The move expands Choreo’s footprint in Northern California and Nevada, where Enso also has a presence, increasing the firm’s assets under management to approximately $13.5 billion. It also represents the firm’s first acquisition since its launch as a standalone organization earlier this year.

Enso has 13 advisers and nine support staff. Once the agreement is completed, all will work under the Choreo brand, with Jim DeCota, Enso’s cofounder and president, assuming the role of managing director.

In February 2022, Choreo’s management team, a group of its advisers and Parthenon Capital purchased the company from RSM US LLP, one of the country’s largest CPA firms. Parthenon Capital is a leading, growth-oriented private equity firm with a long track record of building franchise companies in the wealth management sector.

The parties are expected to complete the acquisition before year-end. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Turkey Hill Management and Faegre Drinker are serving as financial adviser and legal counsel, respectively, to Enso. Vedder Price is serving as legal counsel to Choreo.

TIAA Enters into Definitive Agreement to Sell TIAA Bank

Aligning with a long-term strategic plan to refocus on the company’s retirement business and Nuveen, its asset manager, TIAA has entered into a definitive agreement to sell TIAA Bank to new investors with extensive experience in financial services. TIAA will retain a non-controlling ownership stake in the bank. Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed.

Under the agreement, which is subject to regulatory approvals, nearly all the bank’s current assets and business lines will be acquired by the new ownership, with the exception of TIAA Trust, which currently is part of TIAA Bank but is closely aligned with the wealth business that complements TIAA’s retirement organization and mission. TIAA will apply for a new, separate national trust bank charter, and the TIAA Trust business will become a subsidiary of TIAA.

The new investors that will each own non-controlling interests in the bank after the transaction closes are funds managed by Stone Point Capital, Warburg Pincus, Reverence Capital Partners, Sixth Street and Bayview Asset Management.

Proceeds from the bank sale will be returned to TIAA’s general account, which the company manages for the benefit of its retirement clients. After the transaction closes, TIAA and Nuveen will continue to have ongoing business relationships with the bank.

The transaction is expected to close in 2023 after final regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other closing conditions. TIAA Bank’s headquarters and main base of operations will remain in Jacksonville, FloridaThe bank will operate under a new name, which will be announced when the transaction closes.

TIAA and the bank’s new ownership anticipate a smooth transition for TIAA Bank consumer and commercial clients, with no expected changes to the bank’s products and services. The transaction will have no impact on TIAA retirement accounts.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted as exclusive financial adviser to TIAA. Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal counsel to TIAA. Jefferies LLC acted as lead financial adviser, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC served as financial adviser and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz served as legal counsel to the new investors. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP served as legal counsel to Sixth Street. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP served as legal counsel to Bayview Asset Management, LLC.

NEPC Expands Real Assets Team, Hires Real Estate Industry Veteran

NEPC, LLC, an independent, research-driven investment consulting firms, has announced that real estate industry leader Shelley Santulli has joined the firm as principal and senior investment director, real assets, effective October 10.

Santulli brings more than two decades of real estate investment and advisory experience to her new role and will help NEPC identify and report on emerging investment themes across real asset markets, which include real estate, energy, renewables, natural resources, and infrastructure.

As a part of NEPC’s real assets team, Santulli will be responsible for providing clients with market viewpoints, sourcing investing ideas, conducting manager due diligence, creating educational materials for various real estate and real asset strategies, and advising clients on the implementation of investment strategies.

Prior to joining NEPC, Santulli was executive vice president, portfolio management, at American Realty Advisors, where she helped lead the portfolio management and strategy of a diversified, open-end value fund. Throughout her career, she has held several other senior positions in notable investment management firms like Berkshire Group, AEW Capital Management and Fidelity Investments.

USI Insurance Services Acquires Beasley & Company

USI Insurance Services, a firm focused on risk management, employee benefit and retirement consulting, has announced the acquisition of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Beasley & Company. Founded in 1992, Beasley & Company is a regional benefit consulting firm specializing in retirement, executive compensation, and health and welfare benefit plans. The company’s operations will be combined with USI Consulting Group, a division of USI, and a premier provider of defined contribution and defined benefit plan consulting and administration services. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Voya Financial to Acquire Benefitfocus

Voya Financial, Inc., a health, wealth and investment company, and Benefitfocus, Inc., a cloud-based benefits administration technology company that serves employers, health plans and brokers, has announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement for Voya to acquire Benefitfocus.

Under the terms of the agreement, Voya will acquire all outstanding shares of Benefitfocus common stock for $10.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $570 million, inclusive of Benefitfocus debt and outstanding preferred shares.

Benefitfocus serves the leading brokerage and consulting firms in the health and benefits industry and, through its employer and health plan customers, touches more than 25 million lives on its platform. Combined with its own existing workplace customers, Voya will now serve approximately 38 million individuals or roughly one in 10 Americans following completion of the acquisition.

Benefitfocus will operate as a distinct business under Voya’s ownership, with continuity in the existing Benefitfocus management team and a reaffirmed commitment to Benefitfocus’ broker, adviser, and carrier relationships.

In addition to its significant strategic benefits, the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive, on a cash basis, to Voya’s adjusted operating earnings per share relative to buybacks and before any future revenue synergies are considered. The transaction – which represents a purchase price premium of approximately 49% over Benefitfocus’ closing stock price as of October 31— was unanimously approved by Benefitfocus’ board of directors, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023 subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Benefitfocus’ shareholders.

Perella Weinberg Partners LP is serving as financial adviser, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is serving as legal counsel to Voya in connection with this transaction. Barclays served as financial adviser, and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP served as legal counsel to Benefitfocus.

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