The country’s largest RIA aggregator, Focus Financial, is hiring away an architect of one of the industry’s most successful breakaway stories.

Matt Sonnen has left his post as COO at Luminous Capital Holdings in Los Angeles, Focus founder and CEO Rudy Adolf said in an interview. As Focus vice president of strategic operations, Sonnen will help breakaway teams and recently formed RIAs develop strategic initiatives to navigate the startup process.

In forming Luminous, Sonnen helped guide a team of Merrill Lynch advisors who went independent in 2008. Over the next four years, they grew their firm to $5.5 billion in AUM as of last September. Then late last year, partners sold their practice for a reported $100 million to First Republic Bank.


At Focus, Sonnen will be well-positioned to guide other wirehouse advisors along the same path toward independence that he took out of Merrill, Adolf said.

“He’s a little bit of a rock star in our industry,” he said of Sonnen, who was not immediately available for an interview.

“Luminous, by all standards, is one of the most successful departures of wirehouse teams from the brokerage community," Adolf added. "He was in charge of leading this transition out of Merrill Lynch. So, having all of this expertise that he gathered setting up Luminous available to breakaway teams at Focus is very, very attractive.”


Sonnen is one of five total strategic hires that Focus announced. The most senior, Adolf said, is Mark Hovanic, who is leaving a position as senior vice president of complex and brand manager at Morgan Stanley. Previously, he held other senior roles at several other large wirehouses, according to a Focus spokeswoman.

“Mark is a very important addition to the team because he has a very deep appreciation of the challenges that brokers from wirehouses are facing,” Adolf said.

Hovanic becomes Focus’s new managing director, responsible for recruiting and advising wirehouse breakaway teams.


Focus continues to acquire RIAs at a rapid pace, adding $14 billion in assets last year alone to reach $60 billion in AUM. Its 1,000 employees generated $250 million in revenue at the same time, according to Adolf.

“It was a very, very successful year,” he said.

Wirehouse teams that join Focus receive a capital investment, an interim COO and an experienced team to help with a range of start-up issues, the firm said in a statement.

The firm claims that 95% of its firms’ client assets stay with them during and after the breakaway process.

The three other hires include Frank Balducci, joining as senior vice president of accounting and reporting; new business associate Jason Carver, and Antonia Savaria, who is joining as vice president of compliance and risk management.

The Focus CEO said he anticipates there will be more. “We are constantly out there searching for talent,” Adolf said.

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