Advisor Group, one of the nation’s largest networks of independent wealth management firms, and Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc., a publicly-traded diversified financial services company, announced on Monday both companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement to join the two companies.

Under the terms of the transaction, Ladenburg has agreed to be acquired by Advisor Group through a cash merger, in which each outstanding share of Ladenburg’s common stock will be converted into a cash payment of $3.50 per share. The total enterprise value of the transaction is approximately $1.3 billion, taking into account Ladenburg’s common stock, preferred stock and outstanding debt. The definitive merger agreement and the transactions contemplated were unanimously approved by Ladenburg’s Board of Directors.

Locally, Jack Maloney is senior vice president of Crossbridge Wealth Management, a full-service, integrated financial services firm and independent broker in Morristown whose firm uses Woodbury Financial, one of Advisor Group’s four brokerage firms for services, including registration, licensing and inventory. He said the merger will allow his firm to attract new clients, and give existing clients more options for investment.

“The Advisor Group is very profitable because of the new access to technology, which will increase the services we offer,” he said. “(The merger) gives us the scale to use more financial outlets and allows to use more companies for underwriting.”

Advisor Group President and CEO Jamie Price said the financial advisors currently served by both companies will instantly benefit from the shared services brought on by the merger, and believes the investments necessary for competitively differentiated technology, practice management, products and service excellence could only be achieved as a collective. Independent brokers will benefit the most from the merger, saying they will not be forgotten.

“Equally important, Advisor Group and Ladenburg have a shared commitment to the flexibility of third-party clearing, together with maintaining a ‘small firm feel’ delivered through the distinct management teams and cultures of a multi-brand network model,” said Price, who will continue in his leadership role after the merger. “In today’s fast-consolidating marketplace, where advisors fear becoming just another number in the crowd, the more intimate service culture and sense of community that our multi-brand approach offers is increasingly in demand.”

“This is a transaction that maximizes value for our shareholders, while positioning our financial advisors for continued growth and success,” said Ladenburg Thalmann Chairman, President and CEO Richard Lampen. “We are confident this transaction will help our advisors accelerate the growth of their businesses, while enabling them to benefit from the highly personalized service experience they have always enjoyed, under a very similar multi-custodial, multi-clearing and multi-brand structure.”

Maloney said the independent broker is the wave of the future, and he is proud the merger of Advisor Group and Ladenburg is committed to ensuring its success.

“The independent broker-dealers are growing at much faster rates, and will overtake the large firms of Wall Street in a few years,” he said. “If you know the right technology, any place can be used for an independent broker-dealership.”

What impresses Maloney the most about the merger are the new technologies and security measures in place, including eQuipt, Advisor Group’s fully-digital client onboarding system, MyCMO, its personalized advisor marketing platform; MySuccessionPlan.com, its suite of bundled succession planning resources and its integrated CyberGuard Program for cybersecurity.

For advisors affiliated with Advisor Group, the transaction brings access to Ladenburg Thalmann’s industry-leading practice management capabilities, wealth management resources, advisor-client portal technologies and expanded national scale. Maloney said security is the most important thing to his clients.

“We’re bigger now, so we can offer more services at a lower cost,” he said. “Cybersecurity is a huge risk, so there’s less of a possibility of that.

“I’m very happy we made that merger. We’re better able to take care of our clients’ business securely and safely,” Maloney said.

Maloney also said the new cyber technology allows Crossbridge to move away from keeping paper files, which could be compromised.

“We don’t have to worry about paper files getting stolen or burned up. They’re now in a secure location,” he said. “The crooks are always finding a way to get at you, so you have to have training on - and implementing the security settings to stay safe, but being local can also be an advantage as well.”

The merger, which is subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of Ladenburg’s shareholders, and receipt of required regulatory clearances and approvals, is expected to close in the first half of next year.