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17 people advisors should watch this year

Advisors coming off a tumultuous 2016 shouldn't expect a respite this year.

Events set to unfold in 2017 will remake the business, and match the pivotal moments of this year, which included the unveiling of the fiduciary rule, key M&A deals, robo advisor launches, Brexit and a stunning election result.

Looking ahead, advisors should expect the regulatory environment to shift yet again. President-elect Trump will select three new SEC commissioners, and his choice for Secretary of Labor — Andrew Puzder — may well scale back the fiduciary rule. Should he follow through, then a new fight will unfold to determine what replaces the regulation.

But even as regulatory battles unfold, new and existing technologies will continue to remake the industry at a rapid pace. Several major firms have plans to roll out robo advisors next year. A new arms race in wealth management technology is taking off.

Advisors can prepare themselves by checking out our cheat sheet of key industry players to watch in the coming year.

peopletowatch-2017
17 people advisors should watch this year
Advisors coming off a tumultuous 2016 shouldn't expect a respite this year.

Events set to unfold in 2017 will remake the business, and match the pivotal moments of this year, which included the unveiling of the fiduciary rule, key M&A deals, robo advisor launches, Brexit and a stunning election result.

Looking ahead, advisors should expect the regulatory environment to shift yet again. President-elect Trump will select three new SEC commissioners, and his choice for Secretary of Labor — Andrew Puzder — may well scale back the fiduciary rule. Should he follow through, then a new fight will unfold to determine what replaces the regulation.

But even as regulatory battles unfold, new and existing technologies will continue to remake the industry at a rapid pace. Several major firms have plans to roll out robo advisors next year. A new arms race in wealth management technology is taking off.

Advisors can prepare themselves by checking out our cheat sheet of key industry players to watch in the coming year.
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17. Andy Rachleff, CEO of Wealthfront
Since taking back the chief executive role at Wealthfront, Rachleff has wasted no time sounding off against the biggest names that have entered the digital space. That aggressiveness could translate into more than just pointed blog posts. One possibility: Rachleff may try to strike a partnership with a major Silicon Valley technology company in 2017. Doing so would usher in a new level of competition.

Read more: Wealthfront's outspoken CEO steps down, quietly
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16. Brent Brodeski, CEO of Savant Capital Management
Look for Brodeski to expand his $5 billion RIA's national footprint. Armed with a war chest of around $50 million, thanks to investments by private investors this fall, Brodeski says he is setting his sights on acquiring advisory firms with between $100 million and $500 million in assets. The new capital structure provides the company with "a really big checkbook" for future M&A deals, Brodeski says.

Read more: Look who's investing big bucks in Savant — and why
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15. Paul Reilly, CEO and chairman-elect of Raymond James
The fast-growing firm has been on a recruiting tear that shows no sign of slowing down. It now has about 7,100 advisors. Reilly, who was named chairman-elect this month, is charged with maintaining what many industry observers consider the firm's strongest asset, its culture, while also contending with the challenges of running a much larger firm.

Read more: Raymond James follows Morgan's lead in keeping commissions under fiduciary
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14. Abigail Johnson, chairwoman and CEO of Fidelity
Fidelity faces increasing competition and, like other mutual fund companies, increasing pressure on fees. At the same time, Fidelity also plans to roll out its robo advisor next year. Advisors should keep an eye on how Johnson will strive to keep the asset management firm a top choice for RIAs.

Read more: Revealed: Fidelity's digital strategy and robo advisor
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13. Catherine Bonneau, CEO of Cetera Financial Institutions
Cetera is ending 2016 with a new CEO, and its parent corporation, Aretec, formerly RCS Capital, emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year. Bonneau recently joined the firm’s executive team, and she's tasked with helping the firm comply with the fiduciary rule, due to go in effect in April. Advisors should keep an eye out for additional announcements on how Cetera will implement new policies.

Read more: No one-size-fits-all approach to fiduciary rule, says Cetera's Bonneau
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12. Robert Cook, CEO of FINRA
Cook took the helm earlier this year at FINRA, which faces increasing pressure from critics who want greater investor protections and transparency. Advisors and executives are keeping a close eye on Cook to see how he will respond to those challenges while also striving to keep FINRA abreast of changes in the industry (earlier this year FINRA issued regulatory guidance on robo advisors).

An early test will come in January, when FINRA releases its annual list of priorities for the new year.

Read more: New FINRA CEO will face thorny issues and rising criticism
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11. Naureen Hassan, chief digital officer of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
In early 2016, Hassan left Charles Schwab where she oversaw the development and launch of that firm's robo advisor. Now at Morgan Stanley, Hassan is overseeing several digital projects — including a digital advice platform — that will come to fruition in 2017, and possibly remake the wirehouse space in the process.

Read more: Morgan Stanley robo advisor? A future redefined
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10. Tim Sloan, CEO of Wells Fargo
Sloan leads one of the nation's largest banks, and, perhaps one of its most troubled. Wells Fargo's operations have been facing intense scrutiny since the firm was accused of opening 2 million accounts under clients' names without their permission. Can Sloan restore the reputation of the firm in the eyes of clients and shareholders?

Read more: For embattled Wells Fargo, wealth management is a bright spot
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9. Haig Ariyan, leader of Raymond James’ new Alex. Brown unit
After helping to ensure the smooth acquisition of Deutsche Bank's U.S. Private Client Services unit by Raymond James, Ariyan will turn his eyes to transforming the elite unit into a growth engine for the firm. Advisors should look for him and his team to ramp up recruiting efforts in 2017 and to promote the rebirth of the Alex. Brown name under Raymond James.

Read more: Why Raymond James kept over 90% of Deutsche advisors
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8. Ron Kruszewski, CEO of Stifel
Kruszewski has boosted Stifel's advisor ranks to record highs through aggressive recruiting and key M&A deals. But with the number of industry players shrinking, will he find new acquisition targets in 2017?

Read more: After growing the firm nearly tenfold, what's next for Stifel's CEO?
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7. Dan Arnold, CEO of LPL Financial
Arnold unexpectedly ascended to the chief executive spot following Mark Casady's exit from the firm. Now, Arnold will lead the country's largest independent BD during a time of increasingly compressed margins, tightened regulation and speculation that LPL could go to the highest bidder.

Read more: 2 key challenges await LPL's next CEO
Mike Sha CEO SigFig
6. Mike Sha, CEO, SigFig
Sha’s quiet approach to inking partnerships both large and small has netted SigFig an enviable array of clients, including the industry’s biggest banks, IBDs and wirehouses. Industry observers foresee even more such deals for the San Francisco-based technology developer and automated investment platform next year.
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5. Future planners
Advisors looking to hire fresh talent should expect an even bigger pool to choose from as the field of planning education explodes in popularity.

The CFP Board says the number of total registered baccalaureate programs has grown 60% between 2010 and 2015. Of the 42 programs currently in development, over 75% are baccalaureate degree programs.

Take, for example, the story of Tom Annin, the young Virginia Tech grad hired directly out of school by San Francisco-based RIA Bingham, Osborn and Scarborough as a paraplanner this summer. Many graduates of four-year degree programs come out of the gate with a comprehensive understanding of financial planning, allowing them to hit the ground running when it comes to building their careers.

Read more: School's out: Making the case for a financial planning degree
Andy Sieg Merrill Lynch executive
4. Andy Sieg, Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
In contrast to other industry stalwarts such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch will cease offering clients commission-based retirement accounts as part of its plans to comply with the fiduciary rule. But if the Trump administration overturns the rule, will Sieg backtrack? As the new leader of Mother Merrill, this may prove to be an early opportunity for him to put his mark on the firm.

Read more: Merrill's Thiel to step down, veteran insider named as replacement
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3. Jon Stein, CEO, Betterment
Betterment is taking its lead position among independent robo advisors to heart, engaging in a major ad campaign supporting the fiduciary rule and challenging the incoming Trump administration to preserve it. One can expect Stein to increase his public presence as a representative of change from within the wealth management ecosystem as it moves closer toward an IPO goal. The robo advisor is also likely to continue developing an expansion of its offerings to tie its solutions into related financial markets, such as insurance.

Read more: Betterment reboots RIA platform
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2. Janet Yellen, Fed chairwoman
The Fed just raised interest rates and they expect to boost rates three times next year. This way, the Fed can be prepared to cut rates if another recession hits again. Yellen's plan, however, may clash with President-elect Trump's desire to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements, which would benefit from a continued low-rate environment.
Andrew Puzder fast food CEO DOL nominee Bloomberg News
1. Andrew Puzder, nominated to be Secretary of Labor
Trump's choice to head the Labor Department will control the fate the fiduciary rule. Many industry insiders expect the new administration to overturn the regulation. Advisors can expect a heated fight over what replaces it. Will Puzder want to revert to the old rule, or will he seek some sort of compromise? Or will he surprise everyone, and let the rule stand as is?

Read more: Trump said to pick fast-food CEO to head Labor Dept.