LPL Keeps Expanding, But Its Core Business Sets Off Wall Street Alarms

Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:01
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LPL Keeps Expanding, But Its Core Business Sets Off Wall Street Alarms

Tags: LPL

Already the biggest independent broker-dealer in the country, LPL is now courting a lot of RIA firms to sign up for its custodian business. The question is whether that will give company the growth its shareholders are demanding.

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LPL added 32 RIA affiliates in the recent quarter, bringing its total custody to $22.7 billion. 

 

That represents 68% full-year expansion -- off an admittedly low base by the standards of a Fidelity or Schwab, but still one of the fastest growing elements of the company's overall operation.

 

There are now 146 RIA firms on the LPL platform.

 

While LPL added a net 549 independent reps in 2011, with its massive 12,000-plus broker force that maybe comes to 4% growth.

 

On a quarter-to-quarter basis, operations were actually "soft" as clients reined in their investment plans and what LPL calls "same-store sales" -- advisor production -- slowed to 1% growth.

 

And as a result, while some might tout the company's record-breaking earnings, Wall Street punished LPL shares yesterday.

 

Whether they've hit a wall or are simply pausing before the next big push, the company is still a heavyweight. Management is actively courting high-net-worth assets and the advisors who can manage them. 

 

That said, if the giant stalled in the recent quarter, did smaller and more nimble advisors capture better growth? Or is this a sign that the entire industry is suffering -- if LPL sneezes, does the rest of the world have pneumonia?

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