Review of Cetera Advisor Networks 2021

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Updated on Thursday, September 30, 2021

Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Cetera Advisor Networks LLC is a full-service, dually registered investment advisor and broker-dealer that operates through regional networks of financial advisors throughout the country. Through these regional advisory teams it supports, the firm offers financial planning and a number of different investment management programs. It services both individual investors as well as institutions and retirement plans.

The bottom line: Cetera Advisor Networks supports a network of hundreds of independent financial advisors throughout the U.S. that provide a range of advisory programs and services.

  • Numerous investment programs available
  • Relatively low minimum balance requirements
  • Fees potentially above average, particularly for those with less to invest
Assets under management (AUM): $25,816,595,542
Minimum investment: Varies by account, ranging from $25,000 to $250,000
Individual investor to advisor ratio: 43:1
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, hourly charges, fixed fees, commissions
Headquarters: 200 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 1300 El Segundo, CA 90245
Website: www.cetera.com/cetera-advisor-networks/clients
Phone: (310) 326-3100

All information included in this profile is accurate as of September 16, 2021. For more information, please consult Cetera Advisor Networks’ website.

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Overview of Cetera Advisor Networks

Cetera Advisor Networks is an investment advisor and broker-dealer that supports a network of regional investment advisory teams. Founded in 1983, the firm is part of Cetera Financial Group, Inc., which is comprised of a number of other financial firms, including Cetera Advisors, Cetera Investment Services, Cetera Financial Specialists and First Allied Securities.

Cetera Advisor Networks has nearly 900 offices located throughout the country. In total, the firm has over 2,100 employees, including nearly 1,900 who serve in investment advisory or research roles. Additionally, almost all of the firm’s employees are registered representatives of a broker-dealer, and over 1,600 are licensed as insurance agents.

Cetera Advisor Networks’ pros

  • Broad geographic reach: With members of its network located across the country, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find a local advisor, if that’s important to you. The firm has nearly 900 office locations, and it is registered to serve investors in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Relatively low minimum account balance: While the firm does have a $25,000 minimum account balance, that threshold is relatively low compared to many other advisory firms that can require minimums in the six- or even seven-figure range. That being said, some of the firm’s programs do require a $250,000 minimum, though this is the top of the range.
  • Wide range of investment options: Cetera Advisor Networks offers clients a number of investment programs to choose from that use different types of securities. Additionally, since the firm’s advisors operate independently within the network, they each have a different approach to investing, meaning you can likely find an advisor that specializes in the types of services you need. Clients can also opt for a third-party money management program, based on a third-party money manager’s investment philosophy.

Cetera Advisor Networks’ cons

  • Potential conflicts of interest: Most of Cetera Advisor Networks’ advisors are also registered as broker-dealers, and many are also licensed insurance agents. They may earn commissions in these roles when they sell certain securities or insurance products, which presents a potential conflict of interest.
  • Relatively high fees: While fees charged by Cetera Advisor Networks vary by account and by program, the maximum rate charged by any of its portfolios is 2.90% of assets under management for the first $250,000. It is important to note that these are wrap fees, which include transaction costs and some other additional fees. Still, the firm’s maximum rate is more than double the median advisory fee in the industry, which is 1% of assets under management for the first $1 million, according to a study by Kitces published in 2021.
  • Disciplinary action: Cetera Advisor Networks has settled with regulators over various allegations throughout the last decade. See more on this below.

What types of clients does Cetera Advisor Networks serve?

Most of the firm’s clients are individual investors, with more than twice as many individuals without a high net worth as those with a high net worth. For reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 under an advisor’s management or a net worth believed to be at least $1.5 million. Though the majority of its clients are individuals, Cetera Advisor Networks also serves a number of retirement plans and institutions, such as charitable organizations, government entities and businesses.

All of the firm’s investment management programs require a minimum investment, though the amount required varies from program to program. Some call for a minimum investment of just $25,000, while others require a minimum as high as $250,000.

Services offered by Cetera Advisor Networks

Cetera Advisor Networks provides investment management services to its clients through a number of different advisory programs, including those offered by the firm and those provided through third parties. Cetera Advisors offers five different wrap programs, in which all costs are bundled into a single fee.

In addition to investment advisory services and programs, Cetera Advisor Networks can provide financial planning and consulting services to its clients on a wide range of topics, from education planning to estate planning to retirement planning. The firm can also offer advice and consulting to retirement plans.

Here is a list of the services that Cetera Advisor Networks offers its clients:

  • Portfolio management
    • Firm-sponsored programs
    • Co-sponsored programs
    • Third-party money manager programs
  • Portfolio management for businesses (including small businesses)
  • Financial planning
    • Financial position review
    • Retirement planning
    • Insurance analysis
    • Education planning
    • Tax-efficient investing strategies
  • Consulting services
    • Asset allocation
    • Business planning
    • Cash flow and budgeting analysis
    • Charitable giving solutions
    • Education planning
    • Estate and multigenerational planning
    • Financial position review
    • General analysis and planning
    • Insurance analysis
    • Retirement planning and analysis
    • Tax-efficient investing services
    • Wealth accumulation and preservation strategies
  • Retirement plan advice and consulting services
  • Selection of other advisors
  • Education seminars/workshops

How Cetera Advisor Networks invests your money

Cetera Advisor Networks’ individual advisors may use their own investment strategies to build portfolios for clients, using a mix of technical and fundamental analysis to determine asset allocation. Technical analysis looks at statistics to try to determine trends in asset prices, whereas fundamental analysis examines various factors like earnings and management to deduce a company’s financial strength. Some advisors at the firm may also try to purchase investments in a strategy aimed at timing the market.

Cetera Advisor Networks has a range of strategies. It offers six different firm-sponsored programs as well as a co-sponsored program and third-party money manager programs.

Cetera Advisor Networks Advisory Programs
Strategy Investment approach
Firm-sponsored programs
Prime Portfolio Services and Preferred Asset Management Advisors create a custom portfolio mix based on your investment goals; the Prime Program is a wrap fee program, while the Preferred Asset Management is not.
Premier Portfolio Management This program offers a customized investment mix, with annual reviews and individualized account management.
Managed Wealth ADVANTAGE Using asset allocation models developed by a third-party, this strategy creates portfolios with mutual funds and ETFs.
Mutual Fund/Exchange-Traded Funds Advisory Program Investors can choose from an asset allocation strategy that rebalances based on a pre-selected target allocation or one that rebalances based on perceived market opportunities.
xMA Advisory Wrap Program The Next Generation Managed Account (xMA) offers access to models based on different investment styles.
Other programs
My Advice Architect Program Cetera Advisor Networks is a co-sponsor of this platform along with Cetera Advisory Services, which offers four different strategies for investors.
Third-Party Money Manager Programs In this program, Cetera facilitates investments with third-party managers who invest based on their own models.

Fees Cetera Advisor Networks charges for its services

Cetera Advisor Networks gets paid via a percentage of assets under management, hourly charges and fixed fees. Many advisors also receive commissions for selling certain securities or insurance programs. Given the wide variation in financial planning services, the firm does not publish a standard rate for that service, although it typically charges clients based on either a flat fee or an hourly rate.

For investment management programs, the firm generally charges clients based on a percentage of assets under management. The charts below show the maximum fees for various account levels for the firm’s programs, though advisors do have the discretion to charge individual clients less than the maximum rate.

The firm’s programs — with the exception of the Preferred Asset Management Program — are generally wrap fee programs, which means that costs, including transaction costs, are bundled into a single fee. However, clients will also owe annual maintenance fees.

Prime Portfolio Services & Premier Portfolio Services Fee Schedule
Account size Maximum annual fee
First $0-$250,000 2.75%
Next $250,001-$500,000 2.50%
Next $500,001-$1,000,000 2.00%
Next $1,000,001-$2,500,000 1.75%
Next $2,500,001-$5,000,000 1.50%
Next $5,000,001 and over 1.25%
Managed Wealth ADVANTAGE Fee Schedule
Account size Maximum annual fee
First $0-$250,000 2.75%
Next $250,001-$500,000 2.50%
Next $500,001-$750,000 2.00%
Next $750,001-$1,000,000 1.75%
Next $1,000,001-$2,000,000 1.50%
Next $2,000,001 and over 1.25%
Mutual Fund/Exchange-Traded Fund Portfolio Service
Account size Maximum annual fee
First $0-$250,000 2.75%
Next $250,001-$500,000 2.50%
Next $500,001-$750,000 2.00%
Next $750,001-$1,000,000 1.75%
Next $1,000,001 and over 1.50%
xMA Portfolio Service Fee Schedule
Account size Maximum annual fee
First $0-$250,000 2.90%
Next $250,001-$500,000 2.90%
Next $500,001-$1,000,000 2.70%
Next $1,000,001-$2,000,000 2.00%
Next $2,000,001 and over 1.50%

The Preferred Asset Management Program is the only one of the firm-sponsored programs that is not a wrap fee program, which means investors pay individual transaction costs for trades in addition to the advisory fees. The table below outlines the maximum fees for this program:

Preferred Asset Management Program Fee Schedule
Account size Maximum annual fee
First $0-$250,000 2.50%
Next $250,001-$500,000 2.25%
Next $500,001-$1,000,000 1.75%
Next $1,000,001-$2,500,000 1.50%
Next $2,500,001-$5,00,000 1.25%
Next $5,000,000 and over 1.00%

Cetera Advisor Networks’ disciplinary disclosures

Cetera Advisor Networks does report disciplinary disclosures on its Form ADV paperwork filed with the SEC. The firm is required by the SEC as a registered investment advisor to report such events, including any civil, criminal or regulatory issues involving the firm, its employees or its affiliates, from within the last 10 years.

Below are the disclosures that Cetera Advisor Networks reports, listed in chronological order. In each case, the firm settled the allegation with authorities without admitting wrongdoing:

  • June 2021: The firm paid a $125,000 fine related to charges from FINRA that the firm’s representatives had improperly disclosed information about customers to vendors.
  • December 2020: The firm paid $750,000 related to charges that it had failed to supervise certain private securities transactions of some dually registered representatives with outside firms. The findings alleged the firm did not have adequate supervisory systems and procedures in place. In addition to the fine, the firm was ordered to review and revise its procedures as needed.
  • December 2018: The firm paid a $700,000 fine and about $690,000 in restitution to customers in connection to allegations that it did not reasonably respond to red flags related to misconduct by a registered representative.
  • April 2017: The firm paid customers approximately $1.9 million as restitution following allegations that it had not properly identified and applied charge waivers to purchases of certain mutual fund share classes, resulting in some financial institutions paying charges they did not have to pay.
  • October 2015: The firm paid over $151,000 in restitution to customers and $150,000 to authorities following allegations that it failed to apply sales charge discounts to some customers’ eligible purchases.
  • December 2012: The firm paid $40,000 in connection with charges that it had failed to file timely updates about its branch offices with FINRA.

For additional information on Cetera Advisor Networks and its disciplinary history, visit the firm’s IAPD page.

Cetera Advisor Networks’ onboarding process

You can find an advisor near you by using the locator tool on the Cetera Advisor Networks’ website.

The onboarding process at Cetera Advisor Networks varies depending on the advisor, since many advisors run their businesses independently. That said, you’ll generally start the process with a meeting (via phone, video or email) to discuss your financial situation and goals.

Once you’ve started working with Cetera Advisor Networks, you’ll receive quarterly performance reports that update you on how your account is doing.

Where Cetera Advisor Networks is located

Cetera Advisor Networks has nearly 900 office locations throughout the United States. In its Form ADV, it lists locations in the following states:

  • California
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Additionally, the firm is registered to serve investors in all 50 states, as well as in the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Is Cetera Advisor Networks right for you?

Cetera Advisor Networks comprises hundreds of individual advisors throughout the country, so it could be a good fit for anyone looking for an advisor that’s geographically close to them. The firm is also accessible to many investors with a relatively low minimum account balance requirement, starting at just $25,000 for some of its programs.

However, the firm’s maximum annual fees far exceed median rates in comparison to other financial advisory firms, particularly for those with less funds to invest, though most of its programs are wrap fee programs that include transaction costs. Interested investors will also want to be aware of the firm’s potential conflicts of interest, as a number of employees are also licensed to sell brokerage and insurance products.

Before choosing a financial advisor, it’s important to consider what you’re looking for in the relationship and ask questions of the advisor to assess whether they align with your needs. This will ensure you find a financial advisor to work with who is right for you.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.