$5-Mln Merrill Team Joins UBS in California
A $5 million, three-advisor team in northern California left Merrill Lynch for UBS on Friday, the same day that a Merrill duo in Texas producing around $1.6 million joined an independent brokerage practice.
They had been managing $920 million for Merrill clients, according to a welcoming memo that UBS’s northern California market head, Erin Borger, sent to advisors in the San Francisco Bay area. That’s up from the $350 million of client assets they hoped to bring with them when they joined Merrill in 2010 from Morgan Stanley, a Merrill spokeswoman said at the time.
Walker, Leibowitz and Munoz, who had been in Merrill’s Pleasanton office, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Darrick, David, and Michael’s team bring with them a wealth of experience to a rapidly growing market for UBS here in Northern California,” Borger said in the memo that was reviewed by AdvisorHub.
Both UBS and Merrill pulled back from active recruiting of veteran brokers more than three years ago, leading to declines in their ranks as thousands of their advisors left for retirement, rival firms and independent practices.
UBS, by far the smallest of the national “wirehouse” brokerage firms with what sources said is about 6,000 U.S. brokers, has recently re-entered the market. Borger has been credited with some early successes in the effort, both before and after the outbreak of Covid-19.
In January, he hired Jason Schlesinger, a $1.9 million broker from Robert Baird’s Mill Valley office north of San Francisco, and Joseph Smith, who had been producing $1.6 million broker at a Morgan Stanley branch in San Jose.
Joshua Breeden, a Morgan Stanley producing branch manager in Santa Cruz, joined Borger’s realm in March to run UBS’s Walnut Creek office.
And in a previously unreported move, Nicholas Hunt, who was producing $797,000 on a client book of about $100 million, left Ameriprise Financial in Menlo Park in August, to join a UBS branch in the Silicon Valley city, according to a person familiar with the move.
The Merrill team that left in Dallas on Friday was led by Patrick Fontana, who had spent more than half of his 20-year brokerage career with the Thundering Herd, according to his BrokerCheck history. He, along with five-year broker Michael Dunham and a client associate, joined Wealth Partners Alliance, an independent advisory firm affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services.
Wealth Partners Alliance was launched in May 2019 by former Wells Fargo Advisors broker David McBee and former UBS brokers Ricardo “Rick” Lima and John Saalfield. In addition to running their own practices, they offer regulatory services and transition assistance to “breakaway” brokers under the umbrella of Concurrent Advisors, a “super-OSJ” (office of supervisory jurisdiction.
Concurrent’s payout ranges from around 70% to 80% of revenue produced, depending on total production and business mix, McBee said.
The firm is promoting to wirehouse brokers what it says is a “better culture for advisors and clients to do business, which they feel has eroded over time at traditional firms,” it wrote in announcing Fontanta’s arrival.
McBee said in an interview that the message has resonated well during the pandemic, as advisors also focus on the more-than-50% of revenue their firms collect from them as they realize their ability to work relatively independently from their homes.
“The squeeze continues at the big firms,” said McBee.
With Fontana and Dunham, Wealth Partners now includes nine brokers with $655 million of private client assets under management and $400 million in retirement assets. McBee, who said he and his former wirehouse partners promote their 401(k) marketing expertise, aims to grow to around $20 million to $30 million in revenue over the next four years.
Fontana first registered as a rep at Citigroup Smith Barney in 2000, and joined Merrill in 2008, according to BrokerCheck. Dunham started at Fidelity Brokerage Services in 2015 and moved to Merrill in 2018, according to the database.
Merrill Lynch and its parent, Bank of America, do not break out the number of their core wealth management brokers, but sources said Merrill Wealth Management has just over 14,000. It retains its experienced-broker hiring freeze, focusing on developing junior brokers from other parts of the bank and from some regional firms while losing headcount on a net basis due to departures.