Week’s Exodus at Merrill Yields Hires at RayJay, Rockefeller and Stifel
(Corrects asset figure for Stifel broker, and adds information about a Houston team that left Merrill last week and a large team Merrill hired two weeks ago from BNY Mellon.)
Two Merrill Lynch Wealth advisors overseeing $445 million in client assets left Friday for Stifel, Nicolaus in St. Louis and Rockefeller Capital in Los Angeles, a week after a three-broker $310 million-asset Merrill team in Oklahoma City joined Raymond James Financial’s employee channel, according to sources.
Sanctuary Wealth, an independent firm run by several former Merrill regional managers, also announced that it hired a two-advisor team in Houston on Feb. 21 led by Robert Gilliland that had managed more than $250 million of client assets at Merrill. Gilliland was a resident manager who had worked at Merrill for almost 22 years, according to his BrokerCheck history.
Merrill Lynch has experienced a steady outflow of experienced advisors since adopting policies in 2018 that ended payouts on the first 3% of monthly revenue brokers produce and modified the firm’s traditional revenue-based compensation plan with carrots and sticks tied to meeting customer and asset growth goals.
This week’s departures involved individuals rather than teams of advisors.
Rockefeller, which is run by former Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley President Greg Fleming, hired Miles Mason as its third private wealth advisor in Los Angeles. Mason, who joined with a client associate, produced $1.1 million of revenue for Merrill on about $200 million of client assets in the previous 12 months, said a person familiar with his business. He had worked at Merrill offices in El Segundo, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz., for his entire brokerage career, which began in 2005, according to his BrokerCheck history.
He is the 49th broker Rockefeller has hired since its two-year-old recapitalization, and the third in the Los Angeles branch that is managed by Nathan Crair, a longtime Merrill Lynch complex director who joined Rockefeller last summer. Rockefeller last week hired a two-advisor Merrill team in Philadelphia that produced about $3 million.
Stifel Financial’s broker-dealer arm captured Kevin Maxim, who worked at Merrill in Swansea, Ill., for all but 16 months of his 19-year career, and who supervised about $245 million of customer assets, according to a Stifel official who declined to discuss Maxim’s production numbers. Earlier this month, Stifel recruited two Merrill veterans in Texas who had produced around $1.2 million.
Last Friday, Raymond James Financial nabbed the Oklahoma City team of veteran advisors Kurt Carter, Robin Byford, and Michael Wojte, according to their BrokerCheck histories. They generated about $2.5 million in fees and commissions over the past 12 months on about $310 million in client assets, said a person familiar with their practice.
The trio, who are certified financial planners and who joined with two client associates, had been with Merrill since February 2013, according to their BrokerCheck records. They previously worked for more than a decade at a Raymond James bank-brokerage affiliate, Stillwater National Bank, according to BrokerCheck and LinkedIn profiles.
Carter worked for almost a decade as director of athletic development at Oklahoma State University, and also at Phillips 66, and Byford began her career as a certified public account, according to their Raymond James biographies. They began their registered rep careers at MassMutual. Both are managing directors at RayJay, and were senior vice presidents at Merrill. Wojtek began his brokerage career with a nine-year stint at Raymond James in Oklahoma City, before joining Merrill in 2013.
Raymond James last month also hired a $1.7-million Merrill producer in Virginia Beach who had been with the Thundering Herd for about a quarter of his 31-year brokerage career.
The Merrill Private Wealth advisor in Denver who left to become an RIA this week is Brenda Cox, who said she generated more than $300,000 in fees and commissions over the past 12 months on about $200 million in client assets for the Bank of America brokerage unit. She had been one of four advisors with the $2.5-billion Starratt Group, which remains at Merrill.
Cox said she left the big-firm world after almost 11 years with Merrill and 13 with Citigroup out of a yen to work with wealthy clients more autonomously and to escape pressures to keep growing her book.
“I’ve spent most of my career on sales, bringing in new clients and I don’t enjoy that like I used to,” said Cox. “I really enjoy the personal relationships and spending time with clients.”
She left Merrill “on very good terms,” she said, but hopes to retain some of her old-money family clients, first-generation entrepreneurs, foundations and endowments with an expanded quiver of direct-investment and impact investment strategies and products.
At Merrill, she said she had a focus on analyzing equity and alternative investment managers but was not always free to fill the wishes of some “very sophisticated clients.”
Her new firm, Nspire Wealth, has a $2.5 million minimum account size and is affiliated with Integrated Advisors Network, an RIA aggregator whose website says it offers a “supported independence” business model.
A Merrill spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the departures.
Merrill President Andy Sieg has said that the firm continues to have a freeze on hiring experienced financial advisers, and is instead relying on trainees, more junior brokers from competitors, and brokers from Bank of America’s Merrill Edge discount unit to fill its ranks.
The Bank of American wealth unit has made some splashes with private banking hires. Two weeks ago, it recruited a BNY Mellon private banking team in southern Califorinai producing $15 million on about $2.3 billion of customer assets.
The total number of advisors at Merrill Wealth and Merrill Edge fell by 60 in 2019 to 17,458. Merrill no longer breaks out how many of the brokers work within its wealth unit rather than at the bank. As of June 30, 2019, Merrill Wealth, which includes its recently reorganized private client unit, had almost 14,700 brokers.