UBS Hires Solo Advisors from Merrill and Bernstein, Loses Team to Morgan Stanley
UBS Wealth Management USA and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management continue to display their revived recruiting appetites.
Both UBS and Morgan Stanley cut their recruiting budgets three years ago, concurrent with their retreats from the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, in an effort to cut costs while corralling veteran advisors who might have been tempted to move under Protocol protection. But they changed course late last year before Covid-19 hit U.S. shores, and have been selectively recruiting throughout the pandemic lockdown.
Last Wednesday, UBS hired Christopher Pitzak from Bernstein Private Wealth Management in La Jolla, where he had worked for his entire 13-year brokerage career. Pitzak had been managing $616 million in client assets, according to a person familiar with his practice who also confirmed his approximately $7 million of production.
UBS has been focusing much of its effort on advisors at private banks and white-shoe brokerage units of money managers, recruiting another $7 million Bernstein producer in San Francisco in October (Bernstein is owned by asset management firm AllianceBernstein). It also confirmed this week AdvisorHub’s report two months ago that it had hired a multi-billion-dollar-asset team of J.P. Morgan Private Bank advisors in Atlanta.
Private bankers are generally less expensive to recruit than high-end wirehouse brokers because they typically transfer fewer bank-entrenched client assets than traditional brokers, but UBS has been making attractive offers, according to outsider recruiters who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pitzak works with wealthy business owners, money managers and professional athletes, UBS said in a news release, which highlighted his experience as a professional volleyball player and as an entrepreneur in mobile technology and cybersecurity.
“His background as a business owner and as a former professional athlete enables him to bring a unique perspective to his client base,” said Todd Locicero, head of UBS Wealth’s West Coast Private Wealth Management unit, which is geared to people with $10 million or more to invest.
Pitzak did not immediately return a request for comment.
In Houston, UBS recruited Brian Truscott on November 27 from Merrill Lynch, where he had worked for 13 years, according to his BrokerCheck record. Ranked #85 on Forbes’ 2020 list of “America’s Next Gen” advisors, Truscott had managed about $350 million in client assets at Merrill, according to a person familiar with his practice.
He did not return a request for comment on his decision to leave Merrill.
Jeff Appelstein and Justin Hill Monahan, the Massachusetts advisors who left UBS for Morgan Stanley on December 4 with two associates, were managing about $600 million and had produced some $3.5 million in the last year at UBS, said Monahan.
They had worked at UBS for almost 11 years, and hadn’t been exploring a move for long, but had previously known several of their new Morgan Stanley colleagues.
“We’re working our tails off,” Monahan said of the effort to bring UBS clients to the new firm, “but this was the place for us and our business, for sure.”
He declined to comment on specific reasons for the move.
Monahan, who began his brokerage career with Merrill Lynch in 2002 in Burlington, MA, is based in Boston, according to his BrokerCheck history. Appelstein worked at the Thundering Herd’s Burlington branch since 1996, and the two joined UBS in January 2009.
The moves have been a continuing carousel for UBS, which hired a $5 million team from Merrill Lynch in Walnut Creek, CA, two weeks ago and lost a New York City team with $20 million in production last week who formed an independent advisory firm.
UBS last week sued a $14 million team of Florida brokers who joined Morgan Stanley earlier this month, alleging they violated privacy laws and employment contracts prohibiting them from marketing themselves to former clients.
The Broker Protocol, the inter-industry agreement that UBS and Morgan Stanley exited, allows brokers to take a limited amount of customer-contact data with them when joining other signatory firms without fear of being sued.
—Jed Horowitz contributed to this story.