Washington Wealth Management is still on a growth tear.

In its latest move, the San Diego firm has lured a veteran Morgan Stanley advisory team with $160 million in assets under management. The firm's growth spurt has brought Washington Wealth’s total AUM, which was at a modest $100 million in December 2011, to well over $1 billion.

Washington Wealth, which affiliated with LPL last fall, recruited Pearce Saunders Murray Wealth Management to its platform at the same time it opened a new 3,500-square-foot office in Brea, Calif., where the team will be based, the firm said in a statement.

“This is a very important team only because they are so experienced and they’ve been in the wirehouse world for many, many decades between the three of them,” David Richman, Washington Wealth’s market area director for Southern California, told Financial Planning. “And one of them used to be in senior management.”

The team includes Janet Pearce, Bradley Saunders and Krista Murray, all formerly of Morgan Stanley. Saunders has served as a regional director for Morgan covering Southern California and Las Vegas. Their practice serves high-net-worth families and individuals as well as institutions across all areas of financial planning, with a primary focus on fee-based business, according to Washington Wealth.

PREPARING FOR MORE GROWTH

In anticipation of still more growth, Washington Wealth’s new office includes space for several additional teams, the statement said. Saunders is expected to leverage his strong ties in the area to assist in Washington Wealth’s recruiting efforts in the area, according to the firm's statement.

The trio considered other platforms before choosing Washington Wealth, Richman said. “They were growing increasingly frustrated by the wirehouse world and looking for alternatives,” he said. “That’s a general theme for any high quality [wirehouse] advisor right now.”

He said he believes the three chose Washington Wealth for the same reason that many other former wirehouse advisors have: “We all [at Washington Wealth] have a tremendous amount of wirehouse experience. We speak the same language. I think that’s what’s special about us. They have us as partner” to help navigate the independent space.

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