Meg Green & Associates, a South Florida RIA with $650 million in client assets, is switching its custody platform to Birmingham-based Sterne, Agee & Leach. The country's largest privately owned investment bank worked with the Florida firm to create a new platform to support independent advisors, and is offering it to other RIAs.

Meg Green & Associates, which has a multi-generational client base of more than 300 wealthy families and small business owners, made the move after seeking a better mousetrap: a robust hybrid platform that would support both their fee-based and commission business, plus all the extras needed to serve high net worth clients.

"They literally built the platform with us," said Meg Green, CEO of the eponymous firm. She recalled her surprise when she and her colleagues went to Stern Agee's offices for the first meeting, and were greeted by 25 of the firm's top executives. "They basically all came in with pads and pencils and talked to us - 'What is it you're looking for, what would make your wealth management firm complete?' she recalled. They spoke for hours, and eight months later, "they have successfully built the house that is accommodating everything we want," she said.

That list included self-clearance, more access to research and to investment and commercial banking, plus a private trust company under their own umbrella. This last item was especially important, to avoid having to send clients to an outside agency "who don't welcome us," she said. "Because we're multi-generational, we know the families, we know pretty much everything about them, to have them leave us was very stressful."

She said that while Royal Alliance, her previous broker dealer, had done well by her firm for 28 years, they had outgrown each other. "As they became bigger and were buying broker dealers and collecting reps to make a much larger firm, we were losing the cache of being a smaller, intimate firm that could achieve what we wanted to achieve," she said.

She added that Sterne Agee's quest to build a platform to attract independent financial advisors is smart business, given the current business environment. "It was hard for a wirehouse rep to go anywhere where they could be totally independent and have all the services they're used to having. Stern Agee wanted to build it, and they did."

For its part, Sterne Agee is pleased to have been able to work with Meg Green & Associates on the prototype. "As one of the country's most well respected and successful wealth management firms, we are thrilled that Meg and Todd selected our firm to create a truly customized Hybrid RIA platform for their firm. Meg Green & Associates' philosophy and business model are well aligned with the strengths and direction of our firm," said Jay W. Carter, President and CEO of Sterne Agee Financial Services. "This association with their practice will empower both of our firms to achieve higher levels of success. They are astute business people and true visionaries."