$3 Mln-Merrill Lifer in Vegas Exits After 37 Years, Launches RIA
A Las Vegas-based broker on Monday left Merrill Lynch, where he worked for his entire 37-year career, to flex his muscles as an independent registered investment advisor.
Andrew F. Ferguson, 59, a sole practitioner who produced $3.2 million for Merrill on about $360 million of client assets, said he is launching Proquility Private Wealth Partners after three years of research into leaving the Bank of America-owned wealth management giant.
Ferguson, a certified financial planner who has brought his two client associates to Proquility—a portmanteau meant to convey ‘professionalism’ and ‘tranquility’— said he works with around 56 families and their charitable foundations.
A Merrill spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment on Ferguson’s departure. Merrill has experienced a steady outflow of million-dollar-plus producers since it stopped recruiting veteran brokers in 2017, but executives have said that attrition is at historically low levels and that it is replenishing its ranks with early-career advisors from rivals.
Ferguson, who was chair of Merrill’s Advisory Council to Management in 2008, said he opted for full independence despite lucrative signing deals he expects he could have received from other other wirehouses and full-service firms. He has signed Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions as his custodian and is using Dynasty Financial Partners for operational, back-office and platform support.
“I wanted to drive the ship,” Ferguson said. “I wasn’t as interested in the big payout as I was in setting up something that I could build and make a legacy.”
He also was inspired by Brian Buckley, a close friend in Las Vegas who left Morgan Stanley in 2017 after a three-decade brokerage career to set up an RIA affiliated with Dynasty. Neither broker worked on the multi-advisor teams that big firms prefer.
Ferguson has ranked as a Barron’s “Top 1,200 Financial Advisor” since 2015 and as a Forbes best-in-Nevada advisor for the past three years. He further bolstered his industry credentials by serving as an NASD arbitrator from1994 to 2006.
Merrill, Morgan Stanley and other wirehouses have tried to retain veterans through so-called sunsetting programs that guarantee payouts as they head into, and after, retirement. Ferguson said he was not eligible for the Client Transition Program that Merrill is upgrading because he was not on a team.
Ferguson does not have imminent plans to retire but said he hopes to train younger advisors for eventual succession planning.
Merrill Wealth President Andy Sieg has instituted household and asset growth requirements that some advisors chafe at, but Ferguson said he has had no challenges in meeting the “growth grid” targets and qualifying for extra payout points.
Dynasty typically charges an annual platform fee based on assets that equates to between 12.5% and 17.5% of firm revenue.