Merrill Team with $4-Mln Book Shifts to Sanctuary in New Jersey
The steady dribble of veteran brokers out of Merrill Lynch continued as a group said to be generating around $4 million broke away to join independent broker-dealer Sanctuary Wealth and a $1.5-million duo split for two regional firms.
O’Hara, a 15-year broker who joined Merrill from Morgan Stanley in 2007, had been a top next-gen broker at Merrill and ranked #44 on Forbes’ Best-In-State advisor list in 2021 and #102 on its top next-gen list in 2020.
The broker, who is in his early 40s, moved his team because they wanted more flexibility in marketing to prospects under their own brand rather than the Merrill name and the ability to use capital from Sanctuary to buy other practices, according to James Dickson, Sanctuary CEO and a former Merrill divisional manager.
As part of their rebrand, the team has changed their name from The O’Hara Group to Ausperity Private Wealth to signal their broader ambitions, Dickson said. They also said they would have more ownership of their client book as independent brokers instead of signing teaming or inherited account agreements that contain stricter customer solicitation rules, according to Dickson.
Sanctuary has hired eight teams from Merrill this year and now serves 57 practices with around $20 billion in combined assets, according to Dickson.
“You wake up every Friday and see another team you like and respect leave, and it motivates you or gives you confidence that you should take the next step, too,” Dickson said. “We are talking to a lot of teams I never dreamed would consider leaving.”
Merrill’s competitive attrition rate was elevated at 5% in the second quarter this year, demanding attention from senior leadership, Merrill Wealth President Andy Sieg acknowledged in a July call with brokers.
Sieg has been meeting in person with advisors and local managers at Merrill offices as they reopen branches that had been closed during the pandemic, according to photos that the managers have published to LinkedIn. The company no longer breaks out the number of brokers in the traditional brokerage business, which it now reports alongside bank branch employees and private bankers for a total of around 19,000.
Separately on Friday, a Dallas-based Merrill duo with $1.5 million in combined production parted ways to join regional firms in the same city.
Houston L. Richards, who had spent his nine-year brokerage career with Merrill, left to join Raymond James Financial’s employee brokerage unit, according to his BrokerCheck. He had generated around $410,000 of the team’s revenue and oversaw $55 million in assets, according to a source familiar with his practice.
Richards’ move follows the same route another $3.4-million Merrill team took in July.
His partner, Gerardo “Ardo” R. Fuentes, whom the source said had been responsible for the remaining $1.1 million, moved to Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Fuentes had been with Merrill since 2011, according to BrokerCheck and the source. Before that, he had been registered sporadically for two year stints with Robertson Stephens in 2000 and at Banc of America Securities in 2006.
Stifel and Raymond James are each aggressive regional recruiters, but Richards was compelled to choose Raymond James to eventually move into a producing manager role, according to a second source familiar with the practice.
Richards and Fuentes each report to separate ex-Merrill managers, John “J.R.” Koeijmans and Jeremy Silvas, at Stifel and Raymond James, respectively.