When the father-son financial planning firm R. Meier Inc. realized they needed help to grow their practice, they considered various options ranging from hiring more staff to merging with or selling to another firm. This process of kicking the tires affirmed the Meier's confidence in their business model and their desire to remain independent. So what did they do? Ultimately, they joined with another firm. But it’s a firm that lets them maintain their independence while simultaneously giving them access to tools to help grow their business.

Specifically, the two-man shop of Mark and Richard Meier decided to join Advisory Services Network LLC, an Atlanta-based registered investment advisor that partners with financial advisors to provide them an all-inclusive platform designed to help them leave the broker-dealer model and go independent. Or, in the case of the Meiers, to bolster their independent practice.

ASN was founded in 2009 by Tom Prescott Jr. and Dave Paulukaitis, both 30-plus-year veterans of the financial services industry. Prescott began his career with Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb Inc., while Paulukaitis started as an examiner with the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc., which later consolidated its regulatory functions with those of NYSE Regulation Inc. to form the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc.

The duo are managing directors at Mainstay Capital Markets Consultants Inc., a compliance consulting services firm to broker-dealers and investment advisors. ASN arose from Mainstay, but the two businesses are independent of each other.

“We still have some Mainstay clients but we don’t take any new clients. The ASN business is the only business we’re moving forward with on a daily basis,” Prescott says.

He adds that the idea behind ASN was to create an investment advisor platform to serve advisors in areas where he, as a consultant, saw they were underserved.

“At Mainstay, as a consultant we would build an independent advisor for individuals, and it was like they’d come in and drive their car off of the lot and get down the block and say, ‘How do we do this’ or ‘What do we do with this.’ They’d often call us back to say they need more help with this or that,” Prescott explains.

“Over time,” he adds, “we realized we could build a corporate-level IA that would be additive to other advisors but wouldn’t aim to control what the end-user advisor experience would be with us, and that advisors could own and manage their own book but it would be compliant and regulatory sound with all of the needed infrastructure in an open-architecture environment.”

Today, roughly 100 advisory firms in 35 states, with about 150 independent investment advisor representatives managing $3.4 billion in assets, operate through ASN’s platform. “All of our growth has been word of mouth,” Prescott says.

He notes that advisors who work through ASN maintain their own brand and logo, and they function as an operating unit of ASN.

The ASN platform is a plug-and-play model where advisors get access to a soup-to-nuts menu including errors and omissions insurance, customer relationship management software, performance software, regulatory and compliance oversight, mock audits and office reviews, marketing support and other tools needed to run a successful practice.

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