Retirement Industry People Moves

Mercer Advisors and GFS Create RIA Firm Integration; Cetera Creates New Channels and Enhances Leadership Team; Nationwide Hires Lead for Retirement Institute; and more.

Mercer Advisors and GFS Create RIA Firm Integration

Mercer Advisors Inc. (Mercer Advisors), a national registered investment adviser (RIA) firm based in Santa Barbara, has announced its largest RIA firm integration. Combining GFS Private Wealth, an independent privately held firm providing an array of wealth management services, increases Mercer’s Assets Under Management (AUM) to over $12 billion.

Founded by Greg Willsey, CFP, and Sandra Nesbit, CES, CDFA, GFS specializes in providing comprehensive investment and life-planning solutions to affluent individuals and their families.  It offers guidance on a range of financial issues including investments, retirement, estate planning, charitable giving, and family business issues. GFS’s founders and team will continue to operate out of their existing Clearwater location.  Mercer currently operates an office in nearby Tampa.

“Our new partnership with GFS Private Wealth is another example of our continued focus to grow Mercer with like-minded, client-focused advisers,” says Dave Welling, chief executive officer of Mercer Advisors.  “GFS will bring an expanded footprint for Mercer in the Southeast and add to our talent and expertise.”

Nesbit adds, “Mercer’s expertise, culture and alignment with GFS will help ensure the strength of the legacies’ for our clients.  Mercer allows us to accelerate our growth by combing expertise as well as increase our outreach in Florida and the Southeast generally.”


Cetera Creates New Channels and Enhances Leadership Team

Cetera Financial Group (Cetera) announced that the six firms comprising its network will be organized under its newly-created Traditional and Specialty Channels. The formation of these two channels is expected to accelerate the ability of each network firm to support Cetera’s Advice-Centric Experience for advisers and clients, which envisions a financial advice profession driven by goals-based planning and solutions that help clients achieve more predictable outcomes on their journey to financial well-being. 

Robert Moore, CEO of Cetera, says, “The launch of our Traditional and Specialty Channels is a logical outgrowth of our recruiting and retention success last year, which was driven by enhanced adviser support from increased collaboration among our network firms. This step not only furthers our mission to redefine what it means to deliver financial advice, but also reflects Cetera’s distinctive ability to serve financial advisers under business and affiliation structures that require a specialty set of resources, expertise and support to help fuel their success. With all that we’ve accomplished, it’s an ideal time for us to formalize an organizational approach we’ve already been evolving towards, under our ongoing goal of empowering our network firms to more effectively leverage resources and centers of excellence that exist across firms to directly benefit advisors and clients.”

In a related move, Cetera also announced enhancements to its leadership team that align with its creation of the Traditional and Specialty Channels, encompassing strategic promotions from within its existing management team, as well as the addition of new senior talent.

These strategic promotions include the appointment of Catherine Bonneau, most recently CEO of Cetera Financial Institutions, to the role of Chief Operating Officer for Cetera Financial Group, as well as the promotion of Tim Stinson to the newly-created position of Cetera’s head of Wealth Management. Previously, Stinson served as national sales manager, Wealth Management.

Additionally, Cetera has recruited Mimi Bock to serve as president of both Cetera Advisors as well as First Allied Securities.  Most recently, Bock served as executive vice president, National Sales & Consulting at LPL Financial, where she directed multiple adviser-facing functions to support the long-term business growth and success of adviser businesses.  Prior to joining LPL Financial, Bock served in a number of senior roles at Morgan Stanley, including managing director of Global Wealth Management Marketing.


Moore says, “These leadership team announcements are part of Cetera’s ongoing strategy for aligning the right senior talent with roles and responsibilities that drive the delivery of an Advice-Centric Experience for advisers and clients. Mimi Bock’s proven track record for promoting the business growth of independent advisers positions her for considerable success as president of both Cetera Advisors and First Allied. Moreover, as a professional who understands the crucial role that culture and community have in driving adviser satisfaction, Mimi joins us with a commitment to preserve each firm’s unique identity, while finding new ways for these firms to serve their advisers more effectively than ever.” 


Mercer Advisors Opens Denver Headquarters

Mercer Advisors Inc. (Mercer Advisors) has announced strong business results over the past two calendar years and the opening of a new “Central Hub” headquarters in Denver, Colorado.

With two pending acquisitions that will close shortly, Mercer Advisors will oversee $12 billion in assets for over 8,000 individual clients, representing a doubling of assets in just the past two years.  In order to support this strong growth and expansion, Mercer is opening a new, full-service Central Hub in Denver, which will house multiple teams and functions to better support the dozens of Mercer regional offices.

“As part of our vision for an integrated business model, we will continue to invest in our central functions to provide a consistent and superior client and adviser service experience,” says Dave Welling, CEO of Mercer Advisors. “Denver is geographically central to our business and will be a great location for our new headquarters and employees, offering a high quality of life, affordability, and access to premium cultural and recreational activities.”

“The current macro trends impacting the wealth management industry point to a growing consolidation of RIAs looking to partner with a well-resourced and strategic firm so that they can access a broader set of family office and investment management services,” says Welling. “We have a robust pipeline of new acquisitions from like-minded firms looking to enhance their service offering in order to truly deliver a fiduciary experience to their clients, while providing their advisers with broader career paths.”


Athena Grows West Coast Presence

Athena Capital Advisors, a privately owned, independent registered investment adviser (RIA), has expanded its national presence to include a new office in California.

Located in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, the office serves the firm’s existing West Coast clients and deepens relationships with the extensive network of Bay Area investment managers used in client portfolios. The office is led by William McCalpin, managing partner, Impact Investments.

Athena Capital was established in San Francisco in 1993 and later relocated its headquarters to Lincoln, Massachusetts. The firm also has an office in New York City. Its clients include tax-exempt institutions.

Commenting on expanding to the West Coast, Lisette Cooper, Athena Capital’s founder and managing partner, says, “Returning to San Francisco is the perfect complement to celebrating Athena’s 25th anniversary in 2018. We are delighted to join the Bay Area’s dynamic business environment and partner with individuals and institutions that seek risk-managed and customized investment solutions to achieve long-term goals. Our presence on the West Coast will also advance our impact investing practice as we further integrate into a community of solution-oriented entrepreneurs and investors.”

“Among asset owners on the West Coast, there is growing interest in addressing some of the most pressing global social and environmental challenges with investment capital,” McCalpin says. “Athena has more than a decade of experience working with clients that are committed to this approach. From our new office in San Francisco, we look forward to contributing to the further development of the impact investing community on the West Coast.”


Nationwide Hires Lead for Retirement Institute

Nationwide announced that Kristi Rodriguez will lead the Nationwide Retirement Institute. The Retirement Institute provides thought leadership on issues affecting retirement, including long-term care, health care and Social Security to help simplify today’s most complex retirement challenges.

“Nationwide has built a reputation as an expert partner to advisers and plan sponsors,” said John Carter, president of Nationwide’s retirement plans business. “Kristi’s extensive experience in the financial services and health care industries, marketing and consumer research will be assets as we continue to invest in growing our businesses and expanding our thought leadership programs.”

Rodriguez joined Nationwide in 2015, most recently serving as vice president of retirement plans marketing where she led a team of professionals focused on creating educational content, overseeing participant and plan sponsor communications, and supporting acquisition and retention efforts.

Prior to joining Nationwide, Rodriguez served as a senior marketing director for Aetna. Before working at Aetna, she held several marketing and management roles at UnitedHealth Group. She earned her undergraduate degree in finance from Hampton University and holds a consumer marketing strategy certificate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

She replaces Kevin McGarry, who was named the sales leader for Nationwide Funds in November 2017.


Voya Employs Executive for Large Corporate Markets

Voya Retirement has recently hired Jeff Zyonse as an account executive for the company’s Large Corporate Markets business.

Based in Tampa, Zyonse will be responsible for generating new business and building key distribution relationships in the Southeastern part of the country. He will be working within Corporate and Tax Exempt markets that serve employers with plans from $75 million up to $1 billion in assets.

Most recently, Zyonse held the position of regional vice president for Institutional Sales at TransAmerica, where he covered market sales for Georgia, Florida and Alabama. With more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, he specializes in helping companies construct and implement successful retirement plans.

“Jeff’s experience helping his clients achieve their retirement goals through a seamless business experience is a natural fit for our team,” notes Steve Keating, senior vice president of Sales for Voya’s Large Corporate Market. “At Voya, we are dedicated to providing an easier business experience for the companies in which we do business with, and we look forward to Jeff supporting us with our commitment.”

Zyonse graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in marketing.

T. Rowe Price Offers Financial Engines Services to Clients

Financial Engines has expanded its strategic relationship with global investment management organization T. Rowe Price to now offer Financial Engines’ full suite of advisory services and deliver an improved user experience to plan participants who have T. Rowe Price as their recordkeeper.

“As the demand for independent advisory services grows, we are excited to offer a best-in-class integration enabling us to deliver a broader set of services to participants and take our longstanding relationship to the next level,” says John Bunch, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Financial Engines. “Together, we’re bringing high-quality, independent financial help and an elevated user experience to more of T. Rowe Price’s recordkeeping clients, allowing us to help more people reach their financial goals.”

Under the expanded agreement, Financial Engines can deliver its full suite of advisory services to T. Rowe Price plan sponsor clients. In addition to Online Advice and Professional Management, the expanded services now include:

  • Personal Advisor — personalized professional management for all accounts (401(k), IRA and taxable accounts), comprehensive financial planning and a dedicated adviser, available by phone or in-person at more than 140 adviser centers nationwide;
  • Retirement income – including Income+, Financial Engines’ in-plan retirement income planning solution designed for 401(k) participants and Social Security claiming guidance through Financial Engines’ Social Security Planner; and
  • Financial Guidance and Wellness—education and digital content to complement programs offered by T. Rowe Price, including Financial Engines’ new college and health care expense planners.

Additionally, T. Rowe Price and Financial Engines now have a stronger, integrated web experience that includes enhanced single-sign-on capabilities, seamless transaction capabilities, and dynamic, personalized web messaging.


Voya Investment Management Names Head of Multi-Asset Strategies

Voya Investment Management, the asset management business of Voya Financial, Inc., announced that Amit Sinha has joined as head of Multi Asset Design for the firm’s Multi-Asset Strategies and Solutions (MASS) team. Sinha, who is based in New York, reports to Jody Hrazanek, head of Strategy Design and Implementation.

In this new role, Sinha will be responsible for researching and developing multi-asset investment solutions for Investment Management’s existing and prospective clients in response to their investment needs.

Prior to joining Voya, Sinha founded Focus 262 Advisors LLC, a consulting firm that provided technology based investment solutions to institutional investors. Previously, he led the multi-strategy and liability driven investment businesses at JP Morgan and Pacific Life. Sinha is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College where he earned a BA in Business and Systems Modeling.


Wells Fargo Asset Management Adds to Multi-Asset Solutions Team

Wells Fargo Asset Management (WFAM) announced that Peter Weidner will join the firm as head of Factor Solutions within the Multi-Asset Solutions team and Mark Brandreth will join as a senior portfolio manager within the Multi-Asset Solutions team. Both will be based in London, and both join the firm from the Schroders multi-asset team.

In their new roles, Weidner and Brandreth will focus on designing solutions with a specific emphasis on portfolio construction and the use of risk and alternative risk premia for clients who seek retirement income strategies, wealth preservation, and downside risk protection. Weidner and Brandreth will report to Dan Morris, global head of Portfolio Solutions.

At Schroders, Weidner was head of the advanced beta group and managed a range of systematic investment strategies across asset classes. Before joining Schroders, he was a partner and portfolio manager responsible for managing systematic investment strategies at Auriel Capital. His experience in building and managing factor-based portfolios includes equities; fixed income; FX; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG). Weidner earned a master’s degree in finance from the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business.

As head of portfolio construction and trading systems at Schroders, Brandreth developed a pan-asset-class portfolio management and trading system for the multi-asset team. Prior to joining Schroders, he was with BlackRock as a managing director in the scientific equities group. Brandreth also was head of quantitative investment processes, head of the European active equity business, and, before that, head of active U.K. equities at Barclays Global Investors. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Warwick Business School and a master’s degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University.


Altigro Acquires DC Business From Pro-Plans

Altigro Pension Services, a retirement plan services firm, announced the addition of more than 190 401(k) and other defined contribution (DC) plans from Pro-Plans, Inc. dba Professional Retirement Planners.

With this agreement, Altigro also adds Pro-Plan’s staff to its expert team to enhance administrative capacity for growth.

Altigro works with financial advisers and national platform providers to provide more than 900 401(k), cash balance, defined benefit and other retirement plan strategies for employers across the country.

Altigro and Pro-Plans both use FIS Relius Administration for retirement plan recordkeeping and administration which is expected to help drive a seamless migration for client plans. Altigro also uses PensionPro workflow technologies and will introduce data collection features that make it easier for employers to securely receive and provide periodic information. The company has also announced it intends to maintain current fee structures and service deliveries in place for Pro-Plan clients.