It's not every day one of the 10 largest independent broker-dealers announces it has made financial institution investment programs a priority.

But that is what Securities America disclosed to its employees in September and is now announcing to the public.

The Omaha company hopes to compete with the top names among third-party marketers, or broker-dealers who cater to banks and credit unions, said newly appointed chief executive Jim Nagengast.

"We have proven expertise at growing assets under management and see no one who has matched our offering in retirement distribution, which is a core competency if you want to be a leader in the fee business," he said. "I don't see our competitors matching us in those areas."

Currently the biggest players in the space include LPL, Raymond James, Primevest, Invest and Essex.

Securities America, which serves about 1,950 independent contractor advisers, already has a presence in some 120 community banks and credit unions. But it did not serve the banking channel in a systematic way.

"We've serviced financial institutions through our independent broker-dealer systems," spokesperson Natalie Hadley said. "Now we're going to step up our game and create systems specifically for financial institutions."

So far, the third-party marketer has trained 18 staff members in bank-related topics and spent $100,000 adapting its reporting technology to the channel.

Securities America expects to spend $750,000 on the effort through 2011, according to Gregg Johnson, the senior vice president of branch office development.

"One of the reasons to become more aggressive in the space is that we're known as an industry leader in practice management business-growth initiatives," Johnson said.

"That can be easily transferred to reps in banks who are stuck at $250,000 or $400,000 and want to go to the next level. We've now had time to tweak those programs to apply them to the financial institutions rep."

Securities America's efforts will be focused on smaller institutions with programs of one to 10 reps.

"We feel we can and will compete for larger programs, but we're focusing on the one- to 10-adviser space because we feel that's where the most opportunity is," Johnson said.

"What we're hearing from the industry is that in the last three to five years, there aren't as many players delivering service to this niche. Their partners today may have gotten too big for them."

Nagengast claims that Securities America's expertise in reporting and benchmarking technology, coaching programs and retirement-distribution training will fill a void in current third-party marketer offerings.

"When we looked at the marketplace, we saw our competitors were having some challenges in coaching and feel that most of competition's technology is behind where it needs to be," Nagengast said.

"And no one else has built the expertise we have in retirement distribution."

The coaching programs include Next Level, which targets experienced advisers with $250,000 or more in Gross Dealer Concession who are "passionate about serving the mass affluent market," as well as NextPhase, which focuses on "best in class trends, training and tools in practice management, wealth management and fee-based business," according to the company.

Securities America also offers two marketing programs: JumpStart Marketing and PR Mastermind.

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