One of the architects of Focus Financial Partners' rapid rise has left the firm, Financial Planning has learned.

Richard Gill, who had been with Focus for seven of the RIA consolidator's eight years in existence, was a managing director who led the firm's efforts to lure breakaway brokers to Focus' network. A recent Focus press release noted that Gill had "transitioned more than $10 billion in assets" over his time at the company.

He will have a similar role at his new employer, AMG Wealth Partners -- the wealth management division of Affiliated Managers Group, the $594 billion asset management firm -- says company spokeswoman Laura O'Brien. "For the past three years, AMG Wealth Partners has focused on making investments in leading boutique wealth advisory firms," O'Brien says, "and Rich will be responsible for helping us identify outstanding firms and teams."

DOUBLE DEPARTURES

Gill's exit from Focus follows the departure last month of Michael Paley, a managing director and eight-year veteran of the firm who co-led Focus's mergers and acquisitions team. Paley left to become chief operating officer at Klingman & Associates, an independent wealth management firm that is also pursuing a roll-up strategy.

Focus founder and chief executive Rudy Adolf wouldn't comment on the departures of Gill and Paley, but he did say that the recent addition of 30-year Merrill Lynch veteran Chris Dupuy "takes the quality of the team to a totally different level."

Dupuy, who joined Focus last month as co-president (with Gill) of Focus Connections, will take over as that unit's leader.

Focus, which now has approximately $75 billion in assets under management, will continue its "very significant push" to partner with breakaway brokers, Adolf says, noting the firm has made deals so far this year with breakaways managing approximately $3 billion in assets.

"We believe there's no other viable entrepreneurial option for high-end brokers looking for a highly decentralized model combined with a pool of capital that exceeds a half-billion dollars," he maintains.

LOSING 'KEY PEOPLE'

But losing two top executives in one month is not insignificant, say some industry observers.

"Quite frankly, it surprises me," says Alois Pirker, research director for Boston-based Aite Group. "These are key people, and it's not an easy [situation] for Rudy to deal with. He's losing a lot of talent in a short period of time. Their experience is invaluable, and now he has to train new people."

Yet industry consultant and mergers and acquisitions specialist David DeVoe is more sanguine.

The departures of Gill and Paley are "a natural evolution for an organization of Focus' size," according to DeVoe, managing partner and founder of an eponymous San Francisco firm. "They both had been there for a number of years and helped build Focus into one of the industry's leading wealth management consolidators."

DeVoe, who worked with Gill at Charles Schwab, says he expects the executive to be "a great fit" at AMG -- which has been successfully targeted multibillion-dollar wealth managers including Veritable, Clarfeld Financial Partners and Welch & Forbes.

"AMG is very selective," DeVoe says, "and one of the most respected firms in the industry."
Tapping Gill, who will join AMG in August, makes sense for the wealth manager, Pirker agrees.
"Being an RIA roll-up is the sweet spot of the market," Pirker says. "Gill has knocked on a lot of doors in the last seven years, and will be able to make a lot of very good introductions. And the opportunity for growth in the RIA space is still massive, as we just saw from the latest Schwab report. It's where you want to be."

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