Donald Marron has his fingers back in a business he knows very well – broker-dealers. Overnight, the former head of PaineWebber (when it was a publicly traded company) agreed to buy several broker-dealers from ING, the Dutch bank that has been forced to go through a restructuring to get itself back on its feet. Weaker firms have had to shed the steady fee-based brokerage business (Citi sold a big chunk of Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley, AIG at one point put its broker-dealer operations up for sale and UBS has hinted its PaineWebber unit is not core).
Enter folks like Marron who know an undervalued asset when they see it and who understands the wisdom and economics of fee-based businesses. A lot of money was lost by individuals when the markets tanked last year – a lot of retirement money. But people will still need advice and products to help them make ends meet. Perhaps now more than ever. Smart move by Marron and his firm, Lightyear Capital.