Already well-entrenched in the independent space, LPL Financial has hired a banking veteran to deepen its penetration in the bank channel.

The company announced Monday it hired Robert Comfort as an executive vice president of business consulting for LPL’s institution services division. Comfort, who spent 17 years at Huntington Bank running its wealth management businesses, will be responsible for serving the banks and credit union to which LPL provides banking, trust and wealth management services.

LPL has relationships with 680 banks and credit unions. Comfort said in an interview that he expects to significantly increase LPL’s presence in the channel. “I believe we have a huge opportunity to capture additional banks and for us to move upstream to larger banks,” he said. “If you look at the landscape, there is an increased demand, for a regulatory standpoint, for the tremendous resources we have at LPL.”

Comfort, 50, and his team will focus on helping LPL’s bank and credit union clients develop more successful brokerage, trust and wealth management programs. He said that he was attracted to LPL because he thinks it will provide him with an opportunity to help “hundreds of institutions and thousands of advisors … successfully leverage themselves in the brokerage space.”

“LPL is a premier company in this space,” Comfort said. “I have developed a deep understanding of financial institutions and the unique challenges they face over the past 17 years. I think we can leverage that to help make the banks that we work with at LPL more successful.”

This year, LPL has been ramping up its cadre of services to attract more large financial institutions. In April, it completed its acquisition of Fortigent, a Rockville, Md., based company that provides investment consulting, wealth management and performance-reporting solutions for family offices. Also in April, LPL announced it signed an agreement to buy Concord Capital Partners, which offers technology and open architecture investment management solutions for trust groups of financial institutions.

“With these acquisition, we are prepared to be a significant resource in the trust and comprehensive wealth space,” Comfort said. “We think these areas are under heavier regulatory burdens and demand a certain amount of experience and finesse.”

While at Huntington, Comfort built Huntington Investment Co. into an industry leading bank broker-dealer. In 2009, he was named Executive of the Year by the Bank Insurance & Securities Association. He also served a two-year term as president of the BISA from 2006 to 2007. 

Andy Kalbaugh, the managing director and head of institution services at LPL, said that Comfort “He brings an outstanding record of leading a large financial services organization and its range of brokerage, trust and wealth management capabilities.  As LPL Financial expands our institutional services from primarily brokerage to more comprehensive trust and wealth management, we believe Rob has tremendous value to offer our bank and credit union customers across the country.”