STEPHANIE FORSHEE, REPORTER, FINANCIAL ADVISOR IQ: Hello, I'm Stephanie Forshee with Financial Advisor IQ. I'm here with John Pierce, head of business development at Cetera Financial Group. When you did begin your role at Cetera a few months into a global pandemic. What are some of the challenges that that has presented for you and doing your job?
JOHN PIERCE, HEAD OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, CETERA FINANCIAL GROUP: We have to make every challenge an opportunity. And we've seen a spike in virtual home office visits at Cetera where we're actually seeing more candidates today than we did in the past because you're not having to hop on a plane and spend two days face to face. And so our pool of candidates has expanded, which is a positive, unintended consequence.
I'd say that technology in the Covid area has really shown the companies that have done well versus those that are kind of pretenders. And so when Cetera, for example, rolled out our Resiliency Pack or Adviceworks or My Advice Architect, all of these things were geared around helping the advisor grow her practice but also helping her to better deal with her clients. And so I think that from a technology perspective, Cetera has shown very well versus competitors and it has really helped us to recruit.
I'd say that we've actually seen a spike in M&A activity. So when I think about M&A activity, I think of under $15 million is probably recruiting opportunities, over 15 million is M&A and we've definitely seen a surge in M&A activity looking to join one of five of the Cetera communities. And that I think is an unintended consequence.
STEPHANIE FORSHEE: Can you speak to how much recruiting will involve these firms that you mentioned that are under 15 million maybe versus the M&A activity that you're expecting moving forward?
JOHN PIERCE: There's 174,000 people according to Discovery Data that are independent. And there's maybe 120,000 that are in W-2 channels. Today, our entire industry is independent, and I think what we're seeing is everyone is looking at all the options today. In the past, Stephanie, I'd say that they would stay in their swim lane. If they were W-2 they'd go W-2 to W-2 or wire to wire or wire to large regional.
Today, everyone is virtually independent and they're asking themselves, 'OK, why am I paying $0.60 or $0.50 on the dollar? Why, given that I'm independent today, why am I under this old construct?' And so I think there's a new dawning that's occurring because of Covid that no one anticipated and that is the movement to independent channels.
STEPHANIE FORSHEE: Are there any other trends that we have not discussed that you would want to mention in terms of changes that you've seen throughout the pandemic more broadly?
JOHN PIERCE: The global pandemic has really made us rethink a lot of things: technology, mental health, productivity, affiliation models. And a lot of these firms who would never invest in technology have been forced to because of the pandemic. If we didn't have the pandemic it wouldn't have forced a lot of these companies to make the investments that they made.
STEPHANIE FORSHEE: Well, thank you so much for joining me.
JOHN PIERCE: Thanks, Stephanie.