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Edited Transcript of LPLA earnings conference call or presentation 27-Apr-17 9:00pm GMT

Thomson Reuters StreetEvents

Q1 2017 LPL Financial Holdings Inc Earnings Call

BOSTON May 4, 2017 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of LPL Financial Holdings Inc earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 9:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Chris Koegel

LPL Financial Holdings Inc. - SVP of IR

* Dan H. Arnold

LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director

* Matthew J. Audette

LPL Financial LLC - CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Ann Dai

Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Assistant VP, Equity Research

* Chinedu Christian Onwugbolu

Credit Suisse AG, Research Division - VP in Equity Research and Senior Analyst

* Christopher Charles Shutler

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst

* Christopher Meo Harris

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst

* Conor Burke Fitzgerald

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP

* Devin Patrick Ryan

JMP Securities LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Research Analyst

* Kenneth B. Worthington

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Michael J. Cyprys

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director and Senior Research Analyst

* Steven Joseph Chubak

Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP

* William R Katz

Citigroup Inc, Research Division - MD

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for standing by, and welcome to the LPL Financial Holdings First Quarter Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes. It is now my pleasure to hand the conference over to Mr. Chris Koegel. Sir, please begin.

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Chris Koegel, LPL Financial Holdings Inc. - SVP of IR [2]

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Thank you, Bryan. Good afternoon, and welcome to the LPL Financial First Quarter 2017 Earnings Conference Call. On the call today are Dan Arnold, our President and CEO; and Matt Audette, our CFO. Dan and Matt will offer introductory remarks, and then we will open the call for questions. (Operator Instructions) Please note that we have posted our earnings release and supplementary files on the Events & Presentations section of the Investor Relations page on lpl.com.

Before turning the call over to Dan, I would like to note that comments made during this conference call may include certain forward-looking statements concerning such topics as: our future revenue, expenses and other financial and operating results; the regulatory environment and its expected impact on us; industry growth and trends; our business strategies and plans; as well as other opportunities we foresee. Underpinning these forward-looking statements are certain risks and uncertainties. We refer our listeners to the safe harbor disclosures contained in the earnings release and our latest SEC filings to appreciate those factors that may cause actual, financial or operating results or the timing of matters to differ from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements.

In addition, comments during this call will include certain non-GAAP financial measures governed by SEC Regulation G. For reconciliation and discussion of these measures, please refer to our earnings press release.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Dan.

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [3]

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Thank you, Chris. It's good to speak with everyone on today's call.

Last quarter, I reviewed our key strategic priorities for 2017. As a reminder, we are focused on growing our core business and executing with excellence, which we believe will create value for our advisors business and for our shareholders.

With that as context, I'd like to start my remarks today by sharing the outcomes that resulted from our focus on those priorities. The macro environment was favorable in the first quarter, which helped the advisors attract new assets as investors' sentiment improved and the rising markets increased the value of existing assets. In addition, the Fed rate hikes in December and March created more value from our cash sweep deposits. This macro environment was supported through our efforts to grow our core business.

At the end of the quarter, total assets reached $530 billion, up 11% year-over-year, and 4% sequentially, driven by organic growth and rising markets. Total net new assets were $2.6 billion and advisory net new assets were $6 billion, both up from the prior quarter. Additionally, following our previously announced price reductions and improved functionality, our inflows on centrally-managed platforms increased, as more advisors used this capability to drive scale in their practices. These business results include the impact of the client departures that we spoke about last quarter. Excluding those departures, first quarter total net new assets were $6.5 billion and our advisor count increased by 95. These results reflect the continued success of our advisors in the marketplace and our progress in growing our core business.

Let's now turn to our financial results for the quarter. Gross profit was up year-over-year, driven by increased revenue from cash sweep and transaction and fees. Our EBITDA grew faster than gross profit as we stayed disciplined on expenses and generated operating leverage. These results led to $0.52 of earnings per share in Q1. As expected, our results included a loss of $0.14 on the early retirement of debt from our refinancing. Excluding that charge, our first quarter EPS was $0.66, up 18% year-over-year. Matt will go into greater depth on our financial results in his remarks. As we look forward, we plan to stay focused on driving business growth and delivering operating leverage.

I'd now like to talk about -- talk more about our ongoing work in support of our first strategic priority, growing our core business. As I've shared previously, we aim to grow by focusing on core markets, leveraging industry disruption as a catalyst for growth and investing in capabilities that differentiate our advisors and help them grow their business. For 2017, this means, expanding technology capabilities, enhancing our advisory platform and preparing for the DOL fiduciary rule.

On the technology front, we are expanding capabilities that create efficiency for our advisors and free up time to focus on growing their business. As part of that effort, we're working to fully transition advisors to ClientWorks by the end of the year. As for our advisory solutions, we are focused on enhancements that will differentiate our advisors, helping them to serve more clients and attract assets. This means continued investments in our centrally-managed platforms, including the introduction of new functionality into Model Wealth Portfolios or MWP.

We're also lowering third-party manager costs and continuing to add functionality, such as model management in our separately managed accounts solutions. These efforts are intended to add functionality and lower costs for retail investors, while giving our advisors more capacity and differentiated solutions with which to grow their practices.

The final growth driver I want to discuss is our DOL fiduciary rule implementation plans. We are on track for the requirements for June 9. At the same time, we are focused on our preparations for the January 1, 2018, implementation date, including supporting our advisors through the related operational changes. More broadly, we expect the rule to create disruption that will lead to movement of both advisors and assets in the coming months and years. Our goal is to help advisors be prepared to meet their clients' needs with differentiated solutions that ensure retail investors retain access to choice and advice, while positioning LPL advisors for continued growth. We believe the changes we are making are good for investors and advisors, and that our leadership on this front can help us attract more advisors and institutions.

The M&A environment could also become more attractive as we believe industry and regulatory changes could drive consolidation in the broker-dealer landscape as it becomes more difficult to successfully compete. We believe we are well positioned to capitalize on opportunities as the industry evolves.

I would now like to discuss our second strategic priority, executing with excellence, starting with efficiency. 2 quarters ago, we established our 2017 core G&A outlook, which called for another year of modest expense growth. We plan to achieve this trajectory by funding most of our new investments through productivity and efficiency gains in other areas. We remain committed to diligent expense management as a key component of executing with excellence, and we are maintaining our 2017 core G&A outlook.

Our focus on execution also means driving quality for advisors and their clients, whether through their service interactions, the strength of risk -- of our risk and controls or the thoughtful rollout of new solutions. We're using automation to drive greater quality, and we are consistently monitoring data to track and evaluate our performance.

As we work to execute our strategy, we're building an on-purpose organization. We're 1 team focused on 1 strategy, and all of our goals support that strategy. This alignment of purpose helps us all work together to succeed in serving our advisors and delivering results for our shareholders. Our execution of the strategy, as I've outlined today, should serve to further fuel the growth and success of our advisors just as it does for LPL. A recent third-party study by Cogent showed retail clients ranked LPL advisors first in net customer loyalty among 24 leading distributors. This is a testament to the appeal of the LPL advisors' business model and of the quality of the service they provide. Continuing to enable them in the delivery of much-needed objective financial guidance remains at the core of our strategy and drives the quality of our execution.

In closing, we had another quarter of business growth and increased operating leverage. We remain focused on growing our core business and executing with excellence. We believe if we succeed on those priorities, we can create long-term shareholder value.

With that, I'd like to turn the call over to Matt.

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [4]

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Thank you, Dan. And I'm glad to speak with everyone on today's call.

Q1 was a good start to the year. Equity markets and interest rates were up, and our business and financial performance continued to strengthen. We grew assets organically, increased gross profit, remained disciplined on expenses and drove operating leverage.

Along with our solid business fundamentals, we refinanced our entire debt structure and we restarted share purchases. This translated into $0.52 of earnings per share in Q1. And these results include a loss on early retirement of debt related to our refinancing. Excluding that charge, EPS was $0.66, up 18% year-over-year. We are pleased to start the year with these business and financial results. Let's now go into our Q1 results in greater depth. Starting with brokerage and advisory assets. We finished the quarter at $530 billion, up $21 billion or 4% sequentially, driven by a combination of market and organic growth. Net new assets were $2.6 billion or 2% annualized growth rate, up slightly from $2.5 billion in Q4. And net new advisory assets were $6 billion or an 11% annualized growth rate, up from $4.8 billion in Q4. These organic inflows help demonstrate that our advisors are successfully growing their practices. And that LPL is winning in the marketplace for new advisors.

As a reminder, last quarter we noted that we expected some large departures related to institutional clients and client separations. In total, we expected about $6 billion in mostly brokerage assets and 210 advisors to leave over the first half of 2017. During Q1, we saw $3.9 billion in assets leave related to those departures. This included $1.1 billion of our advisory assets and $2.8 billion of brokerage assets, along with 118 advisors.

Excluding those departures, net new assets were $6.5 billion with advisory a net inflow of $7.1 billion, and brokerage a net outflow of $0.6 billion. Also excluding the departures, advisor count increased by 95 [CG1] and production retention was 98%.

We also continue to focus on enhancing the transparency and clarity of our results. Last quarter, we provided a historical range for net brokerage to advisory conversions. To improve transparency on this metric, we are adding the actual data by quarter to our disclosures. And in Q1, we had $2.3 billion of conversions. This is consistent with secular industry trends with assets moving from brokerage to advisory, when a higher level of service is appropriate for investors. We also added a historical file on our investor website that provides this metric going back to the beginning of 2015.

I also want to provide a brief update on our monthly metrics. We began reporting monthly metrics at the start of last year to increase transparency into our ongoing progress. We first disclosed some of our most important metrics, assets and cash sweep balances. We believe now is the time to expand this reporting to include net new assets. So we will begin reporting monthly data for brokerage and advisory net new assets, and brokerage to advisory conversions starting with our April metrics release in mid-May.

In addition to new metric disclosures, we are working to make our key trends clearer as well. Last quarter, we introduced a key metrics presentation, which we have now updated for our Q1 results and posted to our investor website. Today, we also posted an updated investor presentation, which highlights our strategic priorities and areas of focus. We hope you find these helpful in better understanding our business.

Let's now turn back to Q1. Our gross profit was $376 million, up 8% sequentially. This is primarily driven by higher cash sweep and transaction and fee revenues along with lower production expense.

Looking at commissions, they were $421 million, down $2 million sequentially. This is primarily from lower, variable annuity sales commissions driven by a change in our VA pricing. As a reminder, last fall, we announced that we would eliminate the 7% upfront commission structure on January 1 of this year. And that change was the primary driver of our lower VA sales commissions in Q1. The remaining VA options have lower upfront commissions as well as trailing commissions. So we expect this change will continue to shift sales to trails over time.

As for advisory fees, they were $330 million, up $4 million or 1% from Q4. Advisory fees are mostly billed off prior quarter balances. So Q4 market growth and recruiting benefited these revenues. The results also reflect a $3 million impact from the previously announced pricing reductions on our centrally-managed platforms. And the lower pricing helped generate the improved asset inflows, Dan discussed.

Turning to payout rate, it was 85.9% in Q1, down from 86.4% in Q4, primarily driven by seasonally lower advisor production bonuses. Moving on to asset-based fees, which includes sponsor and cash sweep revenues.

Sponsor revenues were $98 million, up $2 million from Q4. This increase is due to higher market levels which drove average billable assets up. As for cash sweep revenues, they were $60 million, up $11 million from Q4. This growth was primarily driven by higher yields as a result of the December and March rate hikes.

As we look forward, our cash sweep revenues continue to have good leverage to rising short-term interest rates. At a high level, we estimate approximately $40 million of annual gross profit benefit for each of the next few rate hikes. This is based on our $30 billion of cash sweep balances and assumes we retain roughly half of the benefit of a 25 basis point rate hike. We view this estimate as conservative given that market deposit rates have not moved much through the last 3 rate hikes. And as a reminder, our max yield on money market funds is around 80 basis points. So the upside will be slightly lower as we reach higher rates.

Given that we just had a rate hike in March, I want to share a little color on our ICA yield outlook for Q2. As a reminder, our ICA portfolio is placed with about 30 banks with a range of different structures. While Fed funds is the primary index, we also have contracts indexed to 1-month LIBOR and 3-month LIBOR, along with a small amount of fixed balances. Yields, on some of these deposits moved higher ahead of the March rate hike benefiting Q1. We also actively managed the placement of deposits among our partner banks, which can impact the yield in any given quarter. Given all of this, we anticipate ICA yields in Q2 to be roughly 100 basis points, assuming no changes to the portfolio mix, client deposit rates and Fed funds rates.

Now turning back to Q1 and to transaction and fee revenues, they were $108 million, up $5 million or 5% sequentially. This is due to more transactions, seasonally higher IRA fees and $2 million in nonrecurring termination fees related to the institutional departures I noted earlier. Another $1 million of termination fees were included in other revenues this quarter.

Let's now move on to expenses, starting with core G&A. In Q1, core G&A expense was $177 million, down $4 million from Q4. This was driven by seasonally lower costs, including professional fees and customer statements, partially offset by higher payroll taxes and 401(k) expense that are typical in Q1. For the year, our core G&A outlook remains $710 million to $725 million. And we feel good about our progress through the first quarter. We plan to stay disciplined on expenses and focused on driving operating leverage.

Moving on to Q1 promotional expenses, they were $37 million, up $1 million sequentially. Our 2 large advisor conferences this quarter increased expense by $9 million as expected. But we also had lower costs on our smaller conferences. So the net conference expense increase was $7 million. This increase was mostly offset by seasonally lower marketing expense and lower transition assistance. Looking ahead at promotional expenses, we will not have a major conference in Q2. But we also expect seasonally higher marketing spend and an increase in smaller conferences. So we expect Q2 expense to be roughly similar to Q1. Just remember that transition assistance, which is based on our recruiting success and is somewhat more difficult to predict could move the total up or down.

Moving to regulatory-related expenses for Q1, our total was $5 million, down $1 million sequentially. Looking forward, regulatory expense remains difficult to predict especially on a quarterly basis. But we continue to expect our 2017 full year results to be closer to our 2016 total of $17 million than our 2015 total of $34 million.

Turning to taxes, our tax rate for Q1 was 36%. This is below our normal rate due to a change in accounting standards for share-based compensation. We had a large number of options exercised this quarter, and our tax rate benefited under the new standard. But we still expect our normal tax rate to be in the high 39% range going forward. Next let's turn to capital management. We remain focused on balance sheet strength and allocating capital to drive growth and shareholder returns.

To further strengthen our balance sheet, we refinanced our entire debt structure in March. And we achieved attractive terms given the strength of the markets and our financial performance. To summarize some of the benefits, we extended our maturities, diversified our funding sources to include fixed-rate senior notes and upsized our undrawn revolver. And in this process, we lowered the spread above LIBOR on our term loan by 150 basis points from our last refinancing. And we no longer have financial maintenance covenants on our term loans. These improvements position us well to fund future growth and give us more flexibility to take advantage of market opportunities.

Now turning to our leverage ratio, we finished the quarter at 3.3x, down from 3.4x in the prior quarter. As a reminder, after our refinancing, this metric only applies to our revolving credit line, which is undrawn. The 3.3x ratio was within our target range of 3.25 to 3.5x. But we'd emphasize that we are comfortable operating above or below our target range depending on the returns we see in the market.

Let's now turn to capital allocation starting with CapEx. In Q1, we had $31 million of CapEx, primarily from technology spend. We see good returns from these technology investments in driving growth and efficiency, both for our advisors and for us. We anticipate Q1 will be one of our higher quarters for CapEx this year, and we continue to expect full year CapEx will be down slightly from our 2016 total of $128 million.

Now for returning capital to shareholders. We were out of the market for share repurchases for over a year, while we focused on balance sheet strength and assessed the impact of the DOL rule. Given the work we have completed on both fronts, we feel more comfortable now deploying excess capital. So following our refinancing, we started our share repurchase program. We bought 567,000 shares for $22 million. We also returned $23 million in the form of regular dividends in Q1.

Before closing, I want to update you on our Investor and Analyst Day. We heard a lot of positive feedback on last year's event, which was our first in 3 years. Given that, we decided to make this an annual event and scheduled our 2017 Investor and Analyst Day for November 8 in New York. We will share more details as we get closer to the event.

In closing, we are pleased to start the year with strong business and financial results. We remain focused on growing assets and gross profit, staying disciplined on expenses to create operating leverage and deploying capital to drive growth and shareholder returns.

With that, operator, please open the call for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question will come from the line of Conor Fitzgerald with Goldman Sachs.

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Conor Burke Fitzgerald, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP [2]

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Just want to kick it off with a question on your other-asset based fees. I know you talked about higher asset levels were helping drive the growth this quarter. Could you talk about the core trends you're seeing in this revenue line, and then on that point, I know you announced the creation of the mutual fund-only brokerage account last year. Can you just talk about where you are in this process and how we should think about this product helping to grow your custody revenue?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [3]

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Sure. I'll take the first. I think, Dan will probably take the second one on mutual fund only. I think, on other asset-based, I mean this is primarily sponsored revenue. So I think when you just look at the quarter and highlight 2 things. First the one that we talked about and you observed that the average billable assets are going up and what's drove that increase. The other thing to highlight is the large attrition we talked about is primarily brokerage related. And it shows up in the commission lines as well as this line. You have a little bit of an offset in that growth. The way I think is it's really connected to the brokerage side of the business and where you see the growth there mostly.

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [4]

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And just on the mutual fund-only solution, we continue to work on the solution. We're excited about its capabilities and how we believe it will help the advisors differentiate themselves going forward with respect to supporting commission-based mutual fund business. And as we prepare for that, what -- we just have got to be thoughtful about how we introduce that into the system in the spirit of helping our advisors manage through change and also some of the uncertainty around when the fiduciary rule may go into effect or more specifically the DOL rule. So we haven't landed on any specific dates relative to the availability of it, but we continue to be excited about offering it.

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Conor Burke Fitzgerald, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP [5]

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That's helpful. And then, strong quarter for net new asset growth. Just any commentary on some of the particular areas you had success. And then may be a bigger picture question, but I know one of the big themes at the Investor Day last May was returning your focus on growing the core business and kind of getting back on your front foot. Just wondering if kind of that posturing or attitude from the company is maybe helping to inflect growth upward?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [6]

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And I'm sorry. What was the first part of your question? I got the second one. What was the first part?

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Conor Burke Fitzgerald, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - VP [7]

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Is there any area that particular success you had recruiting from or kind of competitor set?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [8]

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Yes, great. Thank you. So let me hit the recruiting one first and then I'll go back and talk about the macro growth question. So on the recruiting front, we continue to see good advisor movement across what I would call the independent and employee based channels we typically recruit from. So that's encouraging if you think about just the independent space, the typical advisor that's leaving the wires. So we see good movement across the entire spectrum, and certainly this was helpful for delivering good solid both fourth quarter and first quarter results from a recruiting standpoint. So we feel good about the momentum that's represented in those 2 quarters. So hopefully that helps you with the question around recruiting.

I think, with respect to your bigger question around our focus on growth, well clearly that is one of our priorities in our strategy, and we've got good alignment across the organization around on how we do that. That is ultimately in recruiting and adding new advisors to our business from an organic standpoint. That's supporting and helping our existing advisors grow their business and then continuing to create a compelling value proposition such that we retain the advisors that we support. And I think, no doubt being clear about what it is that we're focused on and how we go about doing those 3 things is certainly improving the execution behind that aspiration to achieve that.

I think, we also see to complement that organic growth opportunity, we continue to see opportunity potentially with the change in the marketplace and in the environment opportunity for potential consolidation, and thus we feel like, we believe, we're well positioned to capitalize on any opportunity we see that will create shareholder value to complement those organic growth aspirations. Let me pause there and see if that helps you.

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Operator [9]

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Our next question will come from the line of Steven Chubak with Nomura.

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Steven Joseph Chubak, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP [10]

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So wanted to start with a follow-up relating to one of Conor's earlier questions about the mutual fund only brokerage accounts, and I know it's a new initiative you're looking to introduce. But also maybe you can just help us size the opportunity from bringing those mutual fund assets on platform, they are sitting with those third parties. And in particular, just try and parse the benefit that we should expect from higher noncash asset base fees versus the benefit of having access to those cash balances once their custody is with LPL?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [11]

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Sure, Steve. This is Matt. I'll start with that one. When I think the high-level way to think about it is, we've got a little bit north of $50 billion in mutual fund assets held direct. If you look at the ROA of the brokerage side of the business, it's in the low 20s. I think our custody business would be north of that and the direct business would be south of that. So I think, the opportunity is overtime that $50 billion moving from just under 20 to just over 20. It's the directional way to go about it. So hopefully that helps.

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Steven Joseph Chubak, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP [12]

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And can you also just speak about the potential benefit you get from having access to that cash is like 5% of those balances or of that $50 billion are reasonable expectation and maybe how long would it take for you to fully onboard that $50 billion, like what's a reasonable timeline?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [13]

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Yes, Steven, I think, when you think about the difference in the ROA, I think, having custody of the cash is probably the primary driver or one of the primary drivers. So not having more precision for you than that other that's the primary driver. And timing we'll have to see, I think as Dan discussed, we don't have any specific on that yet, but I think timing, we'll just have to see.

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Steven Joseph Chubak, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP [14]

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Got it. And just one more on the Deposit Beta guidance. Matt, looking at the ICA beat this quarter, I was hoping that you could actually parse some of the individual components that you're speaking to that drove the positive surprise. So how much of the function of the lower deposit beta versus the frontloading of the LIBOR increase? And maybe what's your expectation on these in the near-term given some of the competitive dynamics you're seeing in terms of what's reasonable Deposit Beta expectation, I know you talked about 50% longer term, but just over the next couple of rate hikes, what should we expect?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [15]

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Yes. I think, when we look at the quarter's results, right? When sitting here last quarter, we were looking in the low 80s and came in at 88. And obviously we were assuming the current interest rate environments. We did have the benefit of another rate hike. And I think, probably the primary thing that point you to is things are not just indexed to Fed Funds. We've got some 1-month and 3-month LIBOR. And then I just emphasize the team is constantly managing the portfolio. So in the level of precision of low 80s versus upper 80s, there's a lot of different things going on. I think, on looking forward on Deposit Beta, I mean we continue to think 50% beta or 50% pricing coefficient in hindsight will end up being conservative. So I think that's where the $40 million EBITDA per rate hike that I walked through in the prepared remarks comes from. We think that will be conservative, but we don't know exactly where. So I think that's probably the best thing that I can point you to.

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Steven Joseph Chubak, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP [16]

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Okay. And just one quick follow-up. The delta between the growth in the DCA versus ICA, can you speak to what drove that dynamic or that discrepancy?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [17]

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Obviously, when you're talking about on the rates?

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Steven Joseph Chubak, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division - VP [18]

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Yes. Just on the rate side, I think it was exactly 23 basis points on the DCA versus the ICA, which was a little bit more muted?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [19]

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Yes. I think, the key thing to remember there is that the DCA is fee per account. So just movements in the balances themselves, even though it doesn't change the economics, it will change the way that we display the rate. And the balance has got a little bit smaller there. So the nature of the DCA account is going to be little bit more volatile when the economics are expressed in basis points. That's all what's going on.

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Operator [20]

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Our next question will come from the line Christian Bolu of Credit Suite.

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Chinedu Christian Onwugbolu, Credit Suisse AG, Research Division - VP in Equity Research and Senior Analyst [21]

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For my follow-up on capital allocation. Just curious in your commentary around, or it sounds to me like buybacks. There is an increased preference between buybacks to use your excess capital. But just curious how you thinking about M&A and really the merits of really growing the franchise here given you have increased financial and competitive strengths and just using M&A to grow the business as opposed to, I guess, financial engineering and just using share count?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [22]

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Yes. Well I'll start and Dan can jump in here. I mean, I think, the way we view M&A is when you think about our deploying capital to help drive our strategy, there are lot of things that we're doing that I'd call just growth investments, whether it's transition assistance to drive organic recruiting or investing in technology to drive growth overall. And we see M&A. If there is M&A that makes sense, it helps move that strategy along, then I think we would do that. That's our overall view. If it can help move the strategy forward, we would look at it.

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [23]

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Yes. I think, just the only color I would add to that is that we would tend to prioritize those growth opportunities first from the deployment of the capital given the appropriate shareholder returns and then complement that with the return of capital. And so, I think the strategy we have around positioning the balance sheet sets that up to do that well.

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Operator [24]

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Our next question will come from the line of Devin Ryan with JMP Securities.

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Devin Patrick Ryan, JMP Securities LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Research Analyst [25]

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Maybe back to the net new asset observation. Obviously, another nice quarter there. I'm just curious what you guys are seeing in retail customer engagement right now? Do you feel like you're maybe winning more wallet from clients or they're just more engaged or more invested right now, maybe even kind of postelection time period or any other anecdotes you can share just to give us some perspective of how the retail investors are feeling?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [26]

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Yes. So let me take a stab at that and I'll give you probably more of a macro answer without being overly precise on numbers, I don't specifically have. But I think you're right. Certainly, the macro environment improved, which we saw a strong correlation with investor sentiment. And that created more opportunities for advisors to put money to work. And I think you're right, it comes from both existing money that may not have been invested in the market and then also it comes from putting or gathering new assets and putting those to work. So I definitely think that is a contributor to overall flows in Q1.

The second one is, we're actually seeing more movement of assets because of some of the changes in the industry. And our advisors are getting opportunities associated with the movement of those assets. And again, whether it be environmental things that are changing, whether it be regulatory changes, policy changes that occur at one firm that create a shift or a change and that creates an opportunity for our advisors to provide a different solution and thus ultimately gather those assets and put it to work. So I think those are the 2 dynamics that we're seeing in our existing advisor base that are supporting and helping the growth and inflows of assets in Q1.

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Devin Patrick Ryan, JMP Securities LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Research Analyst [27]

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Got it, terrific. And then, just another one here on ICA. Maybe just a mechanical question. So the 100 basis points kind of guidance for next quarter, maybe that's seems a little bit conservative to us if the deposit cost don't change. And if you go back and look at kind of where you were in the third quarter last year, I think you were at 62 basis points there, we've had 2 Fed hikes since, I think LIBOR's up just as much. So I'm just curious, is it timing where maybe more could flow through? I know there's obviously a lot of contracts and so it's complicated, but just trying to think about what we might be missing in kind of the basic mechanics of the step up?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [28]

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Yes. I think, if you start with just what we've seen -- just starting with Fed funds, right? So Fed funds was 70 bps average in Q1. It's been hovering around 90 right now. So I think as a starting point we're talking about 20. And then, we've got things indexed to 1 month and 3 months LIBOR like I talked about as well as some fixed-rate balances. So even at that point, we would expect something less than that. And 88 to around 100 is 12. So those are the key things that bring it down. So maybe just keeping in mind I'm talking about where the interest rate environment is right now and Fed funds is up 20 off of Q1, not 25 so far.

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Operator [29]

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Our next question will come from the line of William Katz with Citigroup.

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William R Katz, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - MD [30]

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Thanks so much for the extra disclosure. Very helpful. As we think about what's happening on the mutual fund side of the business, it seems to be an evolution of what that business is going to look like over the next several years. How do you sort of see if any changes on the point of sale economics for your franchise as the asset management business looks like it's facing tighter margins and lower fee rates. And, I guess, the ultimate question is would you see any type of pressure on platform fees or just any of the trailer economics here as they adapt to a lower profit model as well?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [31]

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Bill, thanks. I think, the whole industry has to continue to assess the impact of lower fees, right? And where that impacts or affects the overall ecosystem. And so, I think, we're all constantly evaluating what those potential impacts could be. And we continue to work with product sponsors, thinking through that and exploring kind of creative ideas around how do we best adapt to an environment that has pricing pressures or price points that are going to change over time. And so, it's hard to tell exactly where that may land.

I think, with respect to the mutual fund landscape, we believe offering mutual funds both across advisory and brokerage solutions is still going to be relevant. We still want to make sure that we create and maintain that choice. And we want to design those products such that they are ultimately appealing for the end investor and create opportunity for the advisor to put that to work. If those require modifications to the overall pricing to ensure that you get good value for what you're paying for, I think that's something that we'll have to work through. And I would be remiss if I got out over my skies and said it's going to be exactly expedient. I do think the industry will have to go through and continue to work on that. And I think you see some of the product sponsors already beginning to make strategic moves that are reflective of trying to bring down the differential between active -- the cost of active management and its after cost performance relative to other options and alternatives. And, I think, that's a good indication that the ecosystem needs asset managers and it needs distributors and collectively they've got to work together to continue to deliver good products to the end client.

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William R Katz, Citigroup Inc, Research Division - MD [32]

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Okay. That's helpful color. And then my follow-up question, coming back to capital management for a moment. In the past, I think, you've expressed some general thoughts on pricing expectations from potential sellers. Just wondering if you could give us an update on within the context of maybe an M&A pipeline, whether you're in early-stage discussions, middle-stage discussions? And how is the sort of bid ask spread playing out between what you will be willing to pay and maybe purchase something versus what the expectations are?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [33]

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Yes. I would say, I think that -- I just emphasized the way we think about M&A is if it's going to help move the strategy forward. We wouldn't have any comment on where we are with anything or any price hurdles other than it's got to drive value for shareholders. And the way you drive value for shareholders, is the right price based on the returns, and does it move the strategy forward. So those will be your guiding principles on any place they were deploying capital.

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Operator [34]

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Our next question will come from the line of Ann Dai with KBW.

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Ann Dai, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Assistant VP, Equity Research [35]

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I wanted to take you back on one of those questions on kind of what's facing the fund sponsors, the challenges facing them. And when you talked about enhancing advisory solutions, you mentioned lowering third-party manager cost as a benefit to your clients, so is that kind of the -- a circumstance where the fund sponsors accepting a lower rate to be part of your managed program?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [36]

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No. So when I -- the context around that were the investments that we continue to make in our centrally managed platforms. We've got several different platforms. For example, model wealth portfolios or MWP. We also have a separately managed platform, of which we continue to work on enhancing both the capabilities within that platform as well as the pricing in it. And one of the ways of which to reduce the overall cost of that is work with the managers that participate in that platform and what they ultimately charge to the end investor. So if you're an equity manager and you charge X, you might decide to continue to work on that platform. You're going to charge X, 0.90% of X, and we ultimately then will pass that through to the end investor, and it's just a way to create more appeal for that centrally-managed solution, both through capabilities and lower price. So that's the concept that we're talking about.

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Ann Dai, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Assistant VP, Equity Research [37]

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Okay, understood. Is there any kind of give up on LPLs part to help kind of defray some of that lower fee for the asset manager?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [38]

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I think that you've seen a great example of that through what we've done in the last couple of years with MWP, where we've reduced platform fees and strategist fees, and we worked with the other strategist, the third-party strategist, to lower their fees. So yes, I think, you're seeing a collaborative effort across what we think are really important platforms that add great value to our advisors and the investors, and focus on working together to lower those costs, so they are more appealing and good leverage points for our advisors. So MWP is a great example of that, our centrally managed platform that I'm describing. We would take that same approach in working through that.

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Ann Dai, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - Assistant VP, Equity Research [39]

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Okay, great, appreciate the color. And for my follow-up, just wanted to check in on something I saw. It looks like product sponsors on the platform were down a bit year-over-year, and I was just wondering if that's part of any conscious effort on LPLs part to, maybe reduce the number of offerings or if it's just a function of product sponsors dropping out for some reason.

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [40]

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Yes. I'm not sure the exact number you're referring to. Let me just speak at a macro level, and certainly, Matt, you add any color that you can around that. But I think if you look at the holistic landscape of product choice, right. Certainly, as we think about the regulatory environment changing or potentially a fiduciary rule being offered, you begin to have to look at the set of choices that you make. Choice can create sometimes conflict. And what we're trying to do is make sure that we can maintain choice, but also manage the risk around that choice.

And so instead of offering 150 different fund families, you begin to think about how you offer more procured or managed choice, such that you're still creating great choice and making sure that your advisors have access to the products and solutions they need to serve and support the investor. But that you can do it in a way that has a different risk profile and quite frankly has a much better way to manage that risk. So it's a healthy balance that we've got to strike and work through. And I do believe that's going to be a macro trend in the independent marketplace as we move forward, and some of that maybe occurring already in the macro marketplace, but I do think that's a general trend. But I can't speak to the exact number you're referring to.

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Operator [41]

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Our next question will come from the line of Ken Worthington with JPMorgan.

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Kenneth B. Worthington, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst [42]

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I guess, first it was that reported that LPL's cut ties with, I think, a large number of these turnkey asset management platforms, including Envestnet and others. And it seems to me it feels like you're in-sourcing services for your advisors that maybe previously outsourced through these camps. Can you talk a little bit about what you're doing here and maybe what the opportunity is for LPL?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [43]

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I think that's the -- it's the same premise that I was just describing. As you think about a world where you're trying to be more thoughtful about the choice that you provide and the value it creates in exchange for the risk that it creates, I think you get back to this notion of what is the right amount of curated choice that ensures that your advisors have the capabilities they need to meet their clients needs. And that's all that we're doing. We had a number of different third-party asset managers that were part of our advisory platform.

And what you see us doing is just assessing those that we had very, very little assets with, that it didn't create a whole lot of value at the end of the day in exchange for the risk that they created in terms of making them part of our program. So what you see us doing is just getting down to a smarter number of third-party asset managers or TAMPs that participate on our advisory platform. And that's all that we've done. I think, if you look at the overall assets on our advisory platform, these third-party asset managers make up a much, much smaller proportion or percentage of the overall advisory assets.

So the significance of that or the upside of that is not great. It's actually more just about being smarter about how you offer choice and being able to execute and support those sets of choices and manage the risk.

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Kenneth B. Worthington, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - Senior Analyst [44]

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Okay. Makes a total sense. And I think, Conor may have asked this, I'm not quite sure, I'm going to try it anyway. Other revenue was up a bunch this quarter $19 million, I guess, versus $10 million last year. I believe like $1 million of that was from a bunch of the departures. What was the driver of the rest of the bump and is it recurring?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [45]

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Yes. So you got the $1 million correct. The rest of it is the mark-to-market on the advisors deferred comp, and that's offset in the commission and advisory expense. So it doesn't fall in the bottom line. It's just mark-to-market noise. So if you're thinking about -- I look at Q4 as a better indicator of that item. Just knowing it can move up and down with the market.

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Operator [46]

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Our next question will come from the line of Chris Shutler with William Blair.

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Christopher Charles Shutler, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst [47]

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It sounds like you expect to have ClientWorks fully rolled out by the end of the year. So that, I guess, would imply the BranchNet will be gone by the end of the year, is that right? And what kind of costs could we see fall out of the P&L as a result?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [48]

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Yes. So, I think, that you're right. We're going through the change management curve in terms of helping advisors move from BranchNet to ClientWorks. And I think to the extent that we're completely ready to transition everyone off of branch net on to ClientWorks, certainly that creates an opportunity for simplicity in terms of managing systems in support of those overall systems. With respect to the economic gain associated with that, I'm not sure how material that is and I don't have optics on that today. At the end of the day, some of what is retiring is being replaced by new systems and new hardware and things of that nature.

So I'm not sure that there is a great financial windfall associated with that at the end of the day. That's more about creating much, much better functionality for our advisors. And the upside that we get from that comes from creating a better experience for them, more efficiency in their practices, which ultimately is rewarded with giving them more time to grow their practice. So that's kind of how to think about that trade financially if you will.

And I think, with respect to when is BranchNet completely gone, I don't know that we have an exact date on when that's officially retired. But think about where the advisors are spending 95%, 99% of their time, we would, yes, like to have them using ClientWorks by the end of the year almost exclusively.

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Christopher Charles Shutler, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst [49]

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Okay. And then, I guess, in a big scheme of things, it's a relatively small, but we saw there was a bank client departure that occurred this month and supposedly according to press reports about $1 billion of wealth management assets. Just curious in that instance, was it driven by LPL or the bank, and probably more importantly if you go back to what you talked about last quarter and this additional departure, where are you in the process of kind of evaluating your less profitable relationships?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [50]

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Yes. So let me start with the second part of that question first. Again, as we said, I think we've challenged ourselves to become more seasoned, that how we think about supporting and managing our clients and having much better metrics about those relationships. And then making sure that we allocate and deploy resources around those relationships that tend to use our services more heavily and create and drive much more value for our clients, investors and shareholders. And so, at the end of the day, you're going to get a situation where some clients aren't always aligned operationally, may be economically or strategically, and you got to ultimately think about what you do differently about that relationship going forward. And I think in some cases that might end up being a situation where you separate from the client.

That said, it's not -- we don't see that as a systemic effort that's going to create a significant amount of transition off of the platform, but rather we'll handle that on a one-off basis. And so, as we season up our overall metrics and as we think about managing those relationships, I think it will put us in a good position of being smart about how to handle those one-off scenarios as they come up. So don't look for some big bang in terms of some big transition that's going to create a step function change in that overall effort.

I think, on the second part of your question, of course we win clients quarter-to-quarter and we lose some clients quarter-to-quarter. As we've said, we maintain about 97% retention of our clients. That said, sometimes clients separate from us and in the case and in the reference of any specific institutional or client that leaves, we typically don't comment on those specific departures, but think about those as more just normal attrition. If that?s helpful.

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Operator [51]

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Our next question will come from the line of Chris Harris from Wells Fargo.

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Christopher Meo Harris, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst [52]

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So you guys have made clearly a lot of changes to the platform along with pricing changes for various products. I'm just wondering where are we in the evolution of all that? Would you say most of the heavy lifting has been done at this point or could we still see quite a lot of changes to come as it relates to your business and your platform?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [53]

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I think, we always start from a strategic standpoint and we're constantly monitoring the environment, the competitive trends and assessing how we think about positioning ourselves best strategically to create value for our advisors and for our shareholders and position us to win. And as you go through those sets of considerations, certainly the pricing lever is one that we often consider, as you said, and I think you point to -- your reference what we've done with MWP over the last couple of years is a great example of that. And I think as we think about moving forward, we continue to evaluate where we may still have opportunity of which to use pricing as a lever of which to drive growth, and ultimately generate a return on any pricing adjustment that we would make. And so, we will be thoughtful and disciplined about that approach and we continue -- continuously assess and monitor the marketplace, which drives how we think about that.

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Christopher Meo Harris, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst [54]

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Okay. And quick follow-up question for Matt on expenses. You reference you wanted to really focus on driving operating leverage this year. If we are in a position where we're getting multiple Fed rate hikes and lets hope that happens. But to the extent that happens, might that change your approach to expenses at all, and I guess I'm just wondering if you guys might be inclined to invest a little bit more of that back into the business or is that perhaps not the case and it's really just a lot of that's going to fall to the bottom line?

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Matthew J. Audette, LPL Financial LLC - CFO [55]

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Yes. I mean, I think, I just emphasized in near term, right? I think, we were comfortable with our guidance on core G&A $710 million to $725 million. I think we are overly focused on the strategy of growing the business and executing with excellence. And that executing with excellence includes delivering operating leverage. So we think that's extremely important, that's part of our strategy, and I just emphasize we're comfortable with the spending that we prioritized this year and feel good about it.

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Operator [56]

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Our next question will come from the line of Michael Cyprys with Morgan Stanley.

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Michael J. Cyprys, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director and Senior Research Analyst [57]

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On your slide deck, you mentioned redesigning investor statements. Just curious what changes you're making or contemplating? And also there's been some chatter in the industry about breaking out fees that are embedded in the NAVs for some products? Is that's something you're considering or something that you may consider in the future?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [58]

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Yes, so on the first part of that question, that's right. We continue to work on how do we improve the investor experience. One of the ways that we see doing that is certainly to improve how we communicate with those clients on a monthly basis through their statement. And we do believe there is a great room for improvement across the industry relative to how we communicate with that advisor and help them understand sort of that life journey they have around their investments and how they relate and try to achieve their goals and objectives. And so we're going to go on a journey to improve and enhance that overall reporting, which includes that statements, which also includes ultimately enhancing the digital experience which they engage with us. And so the first in that will be enhancements to the statements that will be out directionally in the third quarter. And so I think you'll see a variety of different changes that are going to occur on that and not to drill down into anyone of them specifically. It will be a pretty significant redesign of the statement, all with respect to creating greater usability of it and readability and understanding on the part of the investor.

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Michael J. Cyprys, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Executive Director and Senior Research Analyst [59]

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On Future Advisor, I think you had a partnership with them, you had announced a year ago or so. Can you just update us on how that's progressing in terms of the rollout and the time frame there? Any sort of success factors that you have?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [60]

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Yes, thank you. So we've called that Guided Wealth Portfolios as how we branded it and it is an automated advice solution, of which our strategy was to partner with them and then integrate the workflows into our overall systems both for operational efficiency and good risk management hygiene. And also a good experience for the advisor and the end investor in using the tool. We've gone through multiple iterations of working through that integration, we're in pilot right now with it and getting good feedback and learnings from that. And again, our target rollout for that is directionally towards the end of this second quarter. So assuming we continue to progress on the trajectory that we see right now.

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Operator [61]

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Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our question-and-answer session for today. So now, it's my pleasure to handle the conference back over the Dan Arnold, President and Chief Executive Officer, for closing comments and remarks. Sir?

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Dan H. Arnold, LPL Financial LLC - CEO, President and Director [62]

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Yes. So thank you, operator. And thanks to everyone for taking the time to join us this afternoon. We look forward to speaking with you, again, next quarter. Have a great day.

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Operator [63]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation on today's conference. This does conclude the program, and you may all disconnect. Everybody have a wonderful day.

[CG1]This was given as a whole number, not a percentage