IPO 101

Stephanie Brown helps LPL Financial step out of the shadows and into the public realm

Stephanie Brown led LPL Financial through the transition to a publicly traded company in 2010, a process she describes as thoughtful, strategic, and, in the end, rewarding.

The story of LPL Financial is about the fulfillment of the American financial-planning dream. After demonstrating resilience during the 2008 economic downturn and boosting its status as a dominant player in the market for independent financial advice, “LPL Financial had a good story to take to the street as far as public offering,” says Stephanie Brown, general counsel and managing director.

LPL was formed in 1989 through the merger of two brokerage firms. It offers proprietary technology, securities clearing, custody, and compliance services, as well as practice-management programs and training to more than 16,000 financial advisors. Its executive headquarters are in Boston, and it has additional offices in San Diego and Charlotte, North Carolina.

With a history of continuous and suc-cessful growth, it’s no wonder that the independent broker-dealer firm considered entering the public trading market for many years. “We would be able to access the capital markets as needed to grow the firm and provide the best level of service our financial advisors expect from us,” Brown tells.
She says the transition to a publicly traded company was thoughtful, strategic, and, in the end, rewarding. In June 2010, LPL filed its Form S-1 with the SEC to go public. “We sought counsel from prominent law firms that assist companies in going public,” Brown recounts, adding that the lead underwriters included Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. “These companies did an exceptional job helping us enter the market.” In November 2010, LPL became a publicly traded company on NASDAQ.

With legal expertise in the areas of public and private financing, Brown’s résumé and longevity with LPL helped her navigate through the IPO process. When Brown joined LPL in 1989, she had both a business and a legal role; it was important for her to be in a position to advocate for doing business in the best manner possible. Coupled with leadership skills and a top-notch team, she understood the culture of the firm well and provided solutions that resulted in a successful transition. “We got a good start on preparing the company, organizing our stock records, carefully selecting counsel and underwriters, and preparing for in-depth due diligence,” she explains.

CAREER MILESTONES

1979
Admitted to the District of Columbia Bar

1989
VP of General Counsel and Compliance, LPL Financial

1993
General Counsel & Managing Director, LPL Financial

2005
Managing Director of Legal and General Counsel, LPL Financial

2010
Executive Officer, LPL Financial

As a publicly traded company, LPL is able to gain, if desired, more funding for future growth and potential acquisitions. “We are more visible,” Brown says. For instance, periodic public-disclosure filings are required. When a firm discloses information that is complicated, the investing public may not understand it, and it may create volatility in the firm’s stock. However, the close partnership between the legal and finance groups ensures that any changes in the business, new transactions, or quarterly results are dealt with transparently and accurately. “The legal group and finance group coordinate closely in preparing our public disclosures,” Brown assures.

LPL has taken on a defining role as a leading financial-services company, as it continues to move beyond the 2008 economic crisis. “It was a highly significant period for the industry. I don’t think anyone foresaw the real degree of damage to the markets both domestically and globally,” Brown says. Moving forward, LPL is looking for ways to grow and to operate as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible. The company wishes to expand in a profitable fashion, complementary to its business model and always with a focus on risk and compliance areas. “We are a strongly ethical company; that has been our focus and history,” she adds.

As LPL continues to grow and look to the future, Brown says it’s committed to remaining a trusted and unbiased resource for its advisors and their clients. “And as we continue to evolve, diversifying our executive team and our board will also be a goal,” Brown reveals. “We are a service-oriented company that seeks to help investors partner with advisors who offer unbiased guidance to help them face today’s financial-planning challenges.”