$2.7-Mln Merrill Brothers Go Indie with Alabama RIA
Fresh from taking over their father’s 33-year old practice last year, two brothers have left Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama to join a relative upstart registered investment advisory firm based in the same city.
Stephen Miller, who started his career with their father at Merrill in 2009, said they had been considering moving for some time but had to wait until the father fully retired under the wirehouse’s five-year ‘Client Transition’ sunsetting program. They opted to go independent to have more “ownership” of their practice and to be free of the pressures to sell banking products to their clients, he said. They also found they could earn a better payout running their own practice and pass along some of the better economics to their clients with lower fees for “almost all.”
“It was a long time coming,” Stephen Miller said of the move. “Most of our pay was going to Merrill Lynch, and we just didn’t get that much in return.”
Miller also said he’s had “zero” legal issues with Merrill Lynch following the move regarding inherited accounts. The CTP agreement states that when the five-year period is up, they’re allowed to leave and solicit clients, the advisor said.
“We’re two weeks in and it’s looking very highly likely that over 95% of our business will come with us,” he said.
A spokesperson for Merrill Lynch did not return a request for comment.
Merrill is updating its client transition program this year and sweetening offers for retiring brokers as part of a program to a range of 160% to 275% depending on length of service and fee-based account bonuses. The new program opens in November.
The advisors are continuing to call their group Miller Wealth Management, the same name they used at Merrill.
James E. Miller had been with Merrill since 2013, according to BrokerCheck. The practice was established by their father Mark H. Miller in 1987.
The junior advisor, Parker Morris, started his career with Merrill in 2019, according to BrokerCheck, and client associate T.J. Davis had worked with Mark Miller for more than 20 years, according to Stephen.
The elder Miller had entered the brokerage business in 1986 with Howard, Weil, Labouisse, Friedrichs, Inc., and joined Merrill in 2009 after a long stay with Wells Fargo Advisors and predecessor A.G. Edwards, which he had joined in 1990, according to BrokerCheck.
Stephen and James are both allowing their brokerage licenses to lapse as part of the move.
EverSource, which was founded in 2017, pitches advisors on providing more back-office support, technology, compliance consulting and investment oversight than if they had set up their own RIA. The addition of the Miller team is expected to bring its assets under management to $600 million, according to a Thursday announcement from EverSource.
Stephen said the team had interviewed “over a dozen” other firms before choosing EverSource. He had known EverSource CEO Mark Wesson for some time through participation in a local organization.
“It’s very rewarding to see this young, second generation team of advisors carry on the legacy of their family business,” Wesson said in a prepared statement.