NestWise LLC, a start-up launched last year by LPL Financial to serve middle-class clients, will cease to be as of September 1, LPL has announced.
LPL made a big splash when it established the business in the spring of 2012 with a target market of people with less than $250,000 in investable assets. It sought to reach them through a combination of Web-based tools and in-office meetings with advisors while offering financial planning, investor education, and investment portfolios comprising mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
But it didn’t take long for LPL, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer, to turn out the lights on the fledgling operation. “LPL Financial believes financial resources earmarked for NestWise can be more effectively deployed in other areas of the business, and will be redeployed into our core business consulting activities for both advisors and institutions for training development,” LPL said in a statement.
NestWise’s employees can apply for jobs elsewhere at LPL, the company said. As per NestWise’s most recent ADV filing from last October, it had 37 employees, along with roughly 120 clients and $130,000 in assets under management.
Esther Stearns, who left her job as president and chief operating officer at LPL Financial to become CEO of San Francisco-based NestWise, wouldn’t divulge up-to-date numbers on clients and assets. Stearns, who doesn't plan to stay at LPL, says she’s disappointed by NestWise’s closure and remains committed to trying to find ways to serve middle-class investors.
“The challenge of serving the mass market isn’t solved,” she says. “Then again, we were only a few months into it. There are a lot of companies trying to figure it out.”
A common complaint about the financial planning industry is that it’s focused on wealthier investors. Some organizations, such as the Garrett Planning Network, aim to make financial planning services more readily available to Middle America.
“I won’t say we couldn’t solve it [finding ways to serve middle-class investors],” Stearns says. “I’d say it just didn’t work for LPL. It’s not the right fit for LPL as far as its current focus.”
NestWise seemed to be on its way last summer when it acquired Veritat Advisors Inc., an RIA co-founded by Wharton School professor Kent Smetters that married advanced technology systems with financial advice. NestWise acquired 10 financial advisors when it bought Veritat, and it actively recruited new advisors from the ranks of recent college graduates, career changers and experienced advisors who wanted to serve the middle class.
It had offices in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, as well as independent advisors located around the U.S. But progress evidently was too slow in coming, and LPL decided to can the venture and move on.