Tools to help bank advisors become more successful are getting top billing at LPL Financial's annual Focus Conference in San Diego, according to Robert Comfort, executive vice president of Business Consulting, a unit of LPL's Institution Services Division.

Resources such as Income Spectrum, a "tool to help advisors elevate their game" by finding tailored income solutions for their clients at a time when "there's no yield," will get ample attention at the conference being held through tomorrow, Comfort said in an interview.

But the newest resource may not be announced officially until after the three-day conference is over.  The third-party marketer told Bank Investment Consultant that it has hired Kim Ashcraft, founder of the independent consultancy The 180 Wholesaler, as vice president of Relationship Management. One of her key responsibilities will be to create and develop consulting tools that advisors, program managers and bank executives can use to grow their practices.  For example, Ashcraft will develop a consulting offering that will help train bank advisors on how to win "more shelf space and more support" for their businesses from their institutions.

"She has a wealth of vision," Comfort said of Ashford. "Kim brings a depth of industry training and consulting experience. I would say Kim's strength will be in equipping our advisors and program managers to be even more effective in the people side of the business."

In addition to creating and developing consulting offerings, Ashcraft will lead a team of business consultants, Comfort said.

"The fact that we were able to convince her to walk away from her own practice and come join LPL is really exciting for us," Comfort said. Ashcraft's firm was formed in 2008 to provide consulting and training resources to wholesale distribution companies in the financial services industry.

Comfort joined LPL's Institution Services Division in May to help the company's approximately 700 bank and credit union clients build, grow and maintain successful brokerage, trust and wealth management programs. The Business Consulting unit he heads helps clients with business development and advisor training and recruitment.

Comfort says that the group's top priority is to help advisors accelerate the growth of their businesses over a one- to two-year time horizon through what he calls five "levers of growth." On top of that, the firm is building a long-term planning tool that will help banks and credit unions "position where they want to be five years from now," said Comfort.  The new tool, called Program Growth Model, will be fully available by the first quarter of 2013, he said.

"We got a tool that we're going to bring to institutions that will help accelerate short-term growth over one to two years and then building a long-term planning tool," he said.

LPL's Business Consulting group is also working closely with institutions to help them integrate their wealth businesses.  In most cases, banks have not integrated their retail investment programs, trust departments, private banking, insurance and other services, and in fact often compete with one another, according to Comfort.  The rivalry creates a "big internal distraction" that hinders the growth of wealth programs.

"We're focused on working with institutions . . .  who we are finding really want to bring integration to these businesses but just don't know how. We want to be the partner that provides that solution," Comfort said.

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