Leaving a Broker Dealer for “Real” Independence—With a Private Equity Cushion
It was in 2012 when we first spoke with the four partners of Charlotte-based Cornerstone Financial Partners. When Jeff Carbone, Brian Needleman, Craig Rubrecht and Andy Smith founded their nascent firm in 2001 with just over $30MM, they could scarcely have imagined that Cornerstone would manage greater than $700MM in AUM in just over a decade. During that time, the partners’ discipline and dedication led to great success growing the business, both organically and inorganically.
While Cornerstone grew as an affiliate of a broker dealer, the leaders of the firm soon recognized that offering advisory – rather than brokerage – services would offer greater opportunity, fewer conflicts and a more interesting narrative. As a hybrid RIA, Cornerstone found an appropriate domicile at the time, under the LPL umbrella.
Over the course of the next few years, Cornerstone acquired three practices, expanded assets to $1B AUM and, most impressively, grew the average account size from $600,000 to $750,000. Still, the unrealized ambitions of the team – to profoundly expand the high net worth business, to grow average account balances to over $1mm, to have a partner help develop a well-considered pipeline of inorganic growth opportunities – had not yet been realized.