If you ask anyone in the financial planning industry who the leader is for industry consulting and benchmarking, Moss Adams is likely to be at the top of the list. At least, it was up until today.
In what cannot possibly be a coincidence, Moss Adams financial consulting principals Rebecca Pomering and Philip Palaveev both announced today their departure from the consulting division at Moss Adams.
The story on Pomering broke first from Financial-Planning.com, and it was revealed that Rebecca Pomering will be shifting internally at Moss Adams, to become the new CEO of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors LLC, an independent RIA that provides wealth management services in the northwest United States.
Within just minutes of this announcement via Financial-Planning.com's Planner's Weekly newsletter, the press release arrived from Investment News that Philip Palaveev would be taking over as the president and a shareholder of Fusion Advisor Group, a group with more than 200 advisors that collectively oversees more than $7 billion of assets under management.
All of these changes fall on the heels of last fall's departure of Moss Adams' long-time leading principal Mark Tibergien, who departed the firm last September to become the CEO of Pershing Advisor Solutions.
When Mark Tibergien originally announced his departure, I must admit that I was quite excited to see what would come of it, both in terms of the transition of Moss Adams' consulting group and the new focus on Pershing Advisor Solutions (PAS). Bringing Mark's experience, knowledge, and skillset to PAS was a tremendous coup for the firm, and I have been stating from that time that I think PAS will be the company to watch in the independent RIA custodian space in the coming years (and the early rumors I hear have been VERY positive regarding the change that Mark has already brought to the firm). However, beyond the potential success of PAS with Mark's acquisition, it was also an opportunity for us to what happens when the consultant to firms about succession plans implements his own succession plan - i.e., after all the firms that Mark consulted with on succession planning, would we see Rebecca Pomering, Philip Palaveev, and the other leaders at Moss Adams successfully take up the reins to continue the firm?
Certainly, Rebecca and Philip had some big shoes to fill, but they have absolutely earned their own kudos on their own merits and I was excited to see how Moss Adams' consulting division would evolve under new leadership. So it is with some surprise to see both of the most visible remaining principals at the firm depart a mere 8 months after Tibergien left - although I congratulate both on some exciting new positions!
Overall, I'm not yet certain what to make of the news. The negative view is to suggest that perhaps the transition at Moss Adams wasn't quite as smooth as it publicly appeared - perhaps the firm "blew up" in the transition process? This would be a saddening loss for the industry, and perhaps an unfortunate legacy for Tibergien's work there. The positive spin is to believe that demand for expertise on growing and developing advisory practices has reached such heights that even a firm like Moss Adams cannot hold onto its principals. After all, both Pomering and Palaveev have left to take on extremely significant leadership roles in major firms, as did Tibergien.
So is this a blow-up - a negative mark on the legacy of Moss Adams as a consultant to the industry - or a visible waypoint in the rapidly increasing demand for any and all expertise around successfully growing wealth management firms? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I'm just wondering... is anyone in charge of the 2009 Moss Adams benchmarking survey?