$3.1-Mln Merrill Team Shifts to Steward in Wisconsin
A three-broker Merrill Lynch team that had generated around $3.1 million in trailing-12 month revenue in Wisconsin left the wirehouse on Tuesday to join Steward Partners, an independent firm that clears through Raymond James Financial Services.
The Mequon-based group is led by brokers John J. O’Hare II, 63, his son, John “JJ” O’Hare IIII, 34, and Gerald “Jerry” Jones, 57, and had overseen $420 million in client assets, the senior O’Hare said in an interview. The group, which also includes client associates Megan Roder and Amanda Sachs, began looking earlier this year and contacted a recruiting firm who placed them with Steward, he said.
The team, Steward’s first in the state, was looking forward to more flexibility in product selection and running their own portfolios, said O’Hare, who had been a fund manager at Oppenheimer before starting as a broker at Merrill in 2011. He pointed to the ability to use local lenders for mortgages and loans rather than going through Merrill-parent Bank of America as one change that he felt would appeal to his local small-business-owner customers.
O’Hare declined to say which other firms they had considered but said they had received calls daily with “big offers” given their production.
Steward pitches brokers on recruiting bonuses of up to 100% of their production in upfront cash and equity valued at 100% of their production. They can also earn another 100% of revenue in back-end deferred bonuses for transferring assets and growing their production.
“That’s probably our greatest award is the equity piece,” said Chris Barton, a divisional manager that oversees the new Wisconsin office from Dallas. “There’s a multiple there that will exceed any market return or cash upfront.”
Barton, who joined from Morgan Stanley in 2018, declined to comment on Steward’s valuation, as did other executives. The firm was founded in 2013 and has 177 advisors, according to a spokesman.
The younger O’Hare and Jones also began their careers at Merrill in 2011, according to their BrokerCheck records.
One member of the team, Michael J. Kelly, who has been a broker for 30 years, stayed behind at Merrill’s Mequon office. The branch is part of Merril’s “community markets” initiative, a program aimed at growing offices in locations far from a Bank of America branch.
A Merrill spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. Kelly did not return a call for comment.
Merrill on Wednesday unveiled its latest iteration of its two-month long “Project Thunder” campaign aimed at addressing broker qualms at a time when its executives have acknowledged elevated attrition to the competition. Part of the changes included additional mortgage support specialists, which O’Hare said would be a benefit but was not enough to sway them to stay at Merrill.
“We had already made our decision,” O’Hare II said. “There was little they could do to change our mind.”