Now that LPL Financial Corp. has formally launched its bid to become a publicly traded company, let the speculation begin on what--if anything--it means for the independent broker-dealer industry.

According to the S-1 filed last week by its Boston-based parent, LPL Financial Holdings Inc., the nation's largest independent broker-dealer plans to use proceeds from the anticipated initial public offering to repay debt. Beyond that, its public stock could provide currency for future expansion. For now, though, mum's the word from LPL because it's in a quiet period following its filing.

LPL's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission has created a huge buzz within the industry, though not everyone is swept up in the hoopla. "Honestly, I don't know what the story is other than the fact they've filed," says Larry Papike, president of Cross-Search, a broker placement firm. "Everyone knew they were going to do this offering."

That said, others see it as a watershed for the independent broker-dealer space. "The LPL IPO serves to further legitimize the independent broker-dealer model as a force to be reckoned with, as several firms are clearly challenging the leadership position of the wirehouses, if not overtaking them altogether," says Dan Inveen, principal and research director at the consulting firm FA Insight.

Chip Roame, managing principal at Tiburon Strategic Advisors, says the IPO should boost LPL's already sizable standing within the brokerage community. "I think ten years ago, LPL only had 3,000 to 4,000 financial advisors and were looked down upon by many wirehouse financial advisors," he says. "That is changing, not fully changed, but more wirehouse brokers will respect the firm as a public company and that may boost LPL recruiting of larger teams."

LPL, which also has corporate offices in San Diego and Charlotte, says it grew its advisor count from 3,569 in 2000 to 12,026 as of this year's first quarter. That's a compound annual growth rate of 14%.

The company has formally begun the IPO process at a very uncertain time for IPOs and the markets in general. Yet observers believe the company could be an attractive investment.

"I think LPL will do well as they have a story for the Street," Roame says. "They will be able to talk up their independent model at a time that Wall Street is perceived to have made mistakes."

Bing Waldert, a director at the consulting firm Cerulli Associates, agrees. "If you buy into two trends--that there's a demand for wealth management going forward due to the demographic wave of retiring baby boomers, and that there's a movement of financial advisors going independent--where else are you going to find that kind of pure-play wealth management stock?

"Charles Schwab and Raymond James might be the closest things out there to independent wealth management plays," he adds.

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