In a major endorsement of the hybrid RIA business model, Rob Mooney and John Morris, both formerly of Merrill Lynch’s wealth management division, have launched Snowden Capital Advisors, an independent, advisor-owned hybrid RIA firm.

Mooney serves as managing partner and CEO, and John Morris is managing partner. Snowden Capital will deliver holistic, independent, financial advice to individuals, families, and institutional clients, the firm announced. Mooney had been general counsel and head of business risk management for Merrill Lynch’s global wealth management division, and Morris was chairman of the Latin America Region for Merrill’s international private client group.

“Clients and advisors are increasingly wary of the conflicts of interest inherent in the largest financial institutions,” Morris says. “Snowden offers client-focused, open-architecture solutions, coupled with a boutique approach that allows us to act quickly and intelligently in the interest of our clients.” 

The move reflects the ongoing erosion of wealth management market share in the wirehouse channel, the firm says, citing numbers from Cerulli Associates. Assets at wirehouses fell from $5.5 trillion at the end of 2007 to $4.8 trillion by the end of 2010, with market share dropping from 50% to 43%.

[IMGCAP(1)]

Snowden expects to recruit several advisor teams in 2012.

Several former Merrill Lynch wealth management luminaries are also backing the firm financially and strategically. Lyle LaMothe and Greg Franks sit on Snowden’s advisory board as strategic investors. LaMothe is the former head of U.S. Wealth Advisory for Merrill Lynch, and Franks was a Merrill wealth management division director. Other advisory board members include Bob Caruso and Pete Mooney, and Cynthia Mullock, the firm’s general counsel.

Donna Mitchell writes for Financial Planning.