LPL, which filed its notice of its initial public offering on Friday, is now in its “quiet period,” which the Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t officially define, but typically means the company can’t talk about itself until the stock has had a decent shot of finding its fair value on the market. This silence can last anywhere from 40 days to three months.
That’s a long time to be in the dark if you’re one of LPL’s client banks or an advisor who works at one, but industry observers don’t seem at all worried.
“Principally, the IPO removes some uncertainty,” for banks and advisors, says Ken Kehrer, research director of Kehrer-LIMRA. “The expectation is that the people who bought LPL were doing so to profit from that by selling the company one day. If it sold to another broker-dealer, there would be a disruption changing platforms and reps would leave. Now, that uncertainty has been removed.”
It also has an implication for other firms, but particularly for Cetera, which was acquired last year by private equity firm Lightyear Capital. “Lightyear presumably is interested in doing the same thing—eventually selling it to another firm or doing an IPO,” Kehrer says. “If LPL’s IPO is successful, it strengthens Primevest’s hand.” Primevest, one of Cetera’s three broker-dealer brands, works exclusively with banks and credit unions.
Dick Ayotte, CEO and founder of American Brokerage Consultants, doesn’t expect either banks or advisors to notice much difference, although the IPO will make LPL more transparent for banks shopping for a new third-party marketer (TPM). “It makes the company far more transparent than most of its competitors [due to reporting rules governing public companies],” Ayotte says. “While some TPMs are subsidiaries of much larger public companies, it’s hard to get their numbers because they just don’t provide that data.” Ayotte doesn’t expect other TPMs to up their reporting standards in response, though.
If there’s any potential negative at all for banks and advisors, it’s that new pressures on LPL as a public company from analysts could cause it to cut its prices in order to better compete with other broker-dealers, says Gregory Smith, managing director at Novantas. “As a public company, LPL has to also meet the expectations of analysts and its business model has to stand up to scrutiny, which might mean the price of planning and asset management fees might come down,” he says. After what’s being called “the Lost Decade,” investors are back where they started despite all the advice and asset allocation they paid for, and analysts might insist LPL responds to those customer concerns. “Pricing pressures are broadening on what you get for what you pay a financial advisor,” he says.
However, that’s one small “what if” in a move everyone seems to agree is a positive for the firm and its advisors. “LPL’s IPO could allow it to incentivize employees with stock and lead to more acquisitions in the coming years,” says Denise Valentine, senior analyst at Aite, summing up general sentiment among industry observers. “It’s good news for LPL and brings a company to the forefront that already enjoys a solid reputation in its market.”
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