Exclusive: Rockefeller Lures Merrill Private Wealth Regional Head in Chicago
Rockefeller Capital Management has wooed longtime Merrill Lynch manager Brett Thelander in Chicago as it continues to pluck veteran wirehouse managers to bolster its field leadership and recruiting efforts.
Thelander, who started his career as a broker at Merrill in Denver in 1994, according to LinkedIn, confirmed the move but declined further comment.
A spokeswoman for Merrill said the firm is searching for a replacement.
“We have a deep bench of strong leaders in Chicago who will support our private wealth advisors in the market during a transition period,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Thelander, who first moved into management in 1999 as associate director of Merrill’s Pennsylvania Complex/New York region, according to his LinkedIn, was compelled to join Rockefeller in part because of his familiarity with a number of its senior executives, including former Merrill Pacific Northwest divisional head Chris Dupuy, one of the sources said.
Over his peripatetic Merrill career, Thelander oversaw complexes in Oklahoma and Ohio before being named head of Merrill’s Southern California region for its traditional brokerage force in 2008. He moved to Chicago in 2010 as head of the Heartland region before being promoted to the private wealth unit for ultra-wealthy clients the following year.
Robert Johnson, an ex-Merrill private wealth regional director who moved to Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in Texas in 2018, said that Thelander had developed a loyal following among his former colleagues.
“I cannot emphasize enough what a great recruiter he is,” Johnson said. “This is another massive hire for Rockefeller.”
Merrill largely stopped recruiting veteran brokers in 2017 as it looked to escape the industry practice of paying high-dollar bonuses to trade large teams and has instead focused on developing home-grown talent or hiring novice or bank channel brokers.
Rockefeller has rushed into wealth management in the past three years and has brought on 45 multi-million dollar wirehouse teams since the former family office was recapitalized in 2018 and installed former Morgan Stanley Wealth president Greg Fleming as its Chief Executive.
Fleming himself spent more than 15 years as a financial institutions investment banker at Merrill and served a brief stint during the financial crisis as president of the company before joining Morgan Stanley.
Rockefeller, whose executives have said previously that the goal is to have around 200 teams by 2025, underscored its westward expansion on Friday as it hired a four-person Merrill team generating $2.5 million in revenue in Denver. It also hired a $2.2 million team in Chicago in January and a $3.8 million Merrill team in Chicago in October.