Ron Carson rebrands his $8.5B firm

Ron Carson, founder and chief executive of the $8.56 billion wealth management conglomerate, Carson Group, is putting the final touches on a months-long rebranding effort that spreads the Carson name across the retail and institutional business lines.

The Omaha-based firm announced on Wednesday a dual transformation that changes the name of Peak Advisor Alliance to Carson Group Coaching, and the name of Carson Institutional Alliance, to Carson Group Partners.

“The two companies were like siblings that competed with each other for attention, but there was a synergistic fit,” said Mr. Carson, who founded the business 34 years ago with Carson Wealth, and then created Peak a decade later.

Mr. Carson made headlines across the financial planning industry in January when he severed a 28-year relationship with LPL Financial.

Rebranding efforts were underway internally at the time of his departure from LPL, but Mr. Carson said the whole process turned out to be more of an undertaking than he originally assumed.

“We actually started this initiative a few years ago by having one address for the company on purpose,” he said. “We started looking at where we could combine resources. In our research, we realized the Carson brand had good brand recognition, so we decided to call it what it is and leverage the brand.”

In addition to the name changes, Mr. Carson said multiple components of the business have been combined, including functions like payroll and human resources, which were originally separate.

The changes do not add up to layoffs, even while it does offer some savings, he said.

“This has allowed us to combine resources, but we’re taking the savings and putting it back into the business,” he said. “Right now we’re spending record amounts of money.”

April Rudin, founder of the RIA marketing firm, Rudin Group, praised Mr. Carson for aligning his brand.

“That’s a great strategy for him, because it builds a bigger, better brand, and now you understand that Carson Group also has the great coaching part, too,” she said.

Ms. Rudin added that advisory firms often make the mistake of becoming complacent after an initial effort to brand and market their business.

“Rebranding is a big undertaking, but it’s absolutely necessary,” she said. “A lot of people I talk to think their marketing is okay just because nobody is complaining, but at a lot of firms I’m often the first person to tell them their website sucks.”

The pace of change that Ms. Rudin said a lot of advisers are missing, is the thing Mr. Carson appeared committed to getting ahead of.

“My saying is, if it’s not broken, break it,” Mr. Carson said. “I can promise you that Carson Group is different now than it was 12 months ago, and 12 months from now it will be different than it is right now.”

Tim Welsh, president of the consulting firm Nexus Strategy, also gave Mr. Carson kudos for “cleaning up the names.”

“The marketing theory is that you never want to have too many names,” he said, citing Mr. Carson’s tweets that often included multiple Twitter handles for the various businesses operating under the Carson banner.

“It does make sense to come up with one name to rationalize the brand,” Mr. Welsh added. “The Carson name definitely resonates in the [business-to-business] space.”

Regarding an inaccurate report last summer that Mr. Carson was shopping around the adviser coaching business, Peak Advisor Alliance, for a sale, Mr. Carson said he had been talking with investment bankers to look for a “strategic partnership to help expand the business.”

“After spending a year looking at what’s out there, we realized no one was going to be accretive to what we were trying to do,” he said. “We want to own the space, to be the most trusted for financial advice, and our recent reorganization brings us a step closer to making that dream a reality. When you boil it down, we’re on the eve of a movement to make the complex simple for the advisers we serve and, by extension, their clients.”

When asked about the timing of the rebranding, Mr. Carson reiterated his focus on trying to constantly move forward.

“Never have the opportunities to succeed in our profession been greater, nor the distractions to fail,” he said. “Time will either expose or promote you, and it all depends on an adviser’s willingness to embrace change.”

That opportunity and recent shifts in the profession, make it the best time to reframe and reposition the value that Carson Group provides to advisers, he said.


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