Biggest recruiting moves of the year: Are wirehouses losing their edge?

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The industry’s biggest teams are leaving the biggest firms.

Eight of the 12 largest recruiting moves — those involving a billion or more in client assets — went to non-wirehouse firms in the first six months of this year. Among the winners were William Blair, RBC and Dynasty Financial Partners.

Among the wirehouses, UBS both lost and won three big teams. That exchange included the industry’s biggest move to date, a $10 billion group that exited Merrill Lynch.

“A lot of advisors want to get to a smaller environment where they feel they will get more support and more recognition,” says Michael King, a recruiter based in New York.

King adds it helps that firms such as RBC and First Republic offer advisors competitive recruiting deals.

The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, has impacted on career changes this year. Recruiting overall slowed down across the industry in March as local governments began issuing stay-at-home orders to combat the rise of the coronavirus.

Two-thirds of the biggest recruiting moves occurred before the pandemic’s U.S. outbreak, according to On Wall Street’s analysis of publicly disclosed data and FINRA BrokerCheck records. Our analysis did not include moves between independent broker-dealers.

Yet, despite that slowdown, recruiting activity among the industry’s elite does not appear to be much diminished from years past. In 2019, 14 teams with a billion dollars or more assets switched firms, according to publicly available information. In 2018, it was 11.

“There have been more moves than I expected during this time,” King says.

He adds that some advisors who would have to fly to see clients may have postponed career changes until it is safer to travel.

Scroll on to see where billion-dollar teams moved this year.

Walsh, Amar & Associates joined the newly established Los Angeles office of William Blair
Merrill Lynch loses $1B team to William Blair
A team that managed $1 billion at Merrill Lynch quit the wirehouse to sign on with William Blair, the company said.

Walsh, Amar & Associates joined the newly established Los Angeles office of the boutique wealth manager in February, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records, weeks prior to the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

Chicago-based William Blair specializes in investment banking, investment management and private wealth management. It has been expanding at a slow- but-steady pace in the past five years, expanding to six cities, according to the firm.

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Billion-dollar breakaway team found something better than going indie
They were the breakaway team that didn’t break away.

They certainly meant to. The four advisors were serious about opening their own RIA. They had picked a custodian. They had selected real estate.

But in January, the team, which previously oversaw $1.2 billion at Bank of America Private Bank, found something better than starting their own independent firm: Join someone who already did it.

Advisors Marc Angle, Stacey Cole, Johnny Gibson and Tara Pioli signed on with Fieldpoint Private, an independent firm founded in part by former Merrill Lynch executives.

To read more about the team’s reasons for departing, click here.
Matt Kilgroe (1).jpg
$1.2B advisor quits UBS, goes indie with Dynasty's backing
A former UBS advisor who oversaw $1.2 billion in client assets left the wirehouse to launch his own firm: Cyndeo Wealth Management.

Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Matt Kilgroe has clients in nearly 40 states, according to a statement by Dynasty Financial Partners, who is partnering with his firm. His clients include executives, business owners, land owners and professional athletes.

Kilgroe made the move in June.

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UBS NYC Headquarters Bloomberg News photo
Big win: UBS hires $1.5B team
In one of the largest hires of 2020, UBS recruited a team managing $1.5 billion, according to a memo obtained by On Wall Street.

The wirehouse picked up the advisors from AllianceBernstein. The team joined the firm in Dallas and is comprised of John Baumgarten, Cory Dowell, Chad Jones, Martha Greenberg, Karen Slavik and Aubrey Bolduc, according to the memo.

To read more, click here.
“You want on the one hand to keep getting a relatively decent yield from your investments, but also protect your portfolio against short-term bouts of volatility," said Maximilian Kunkel, chief investment officer for Germany at UBS Wealth Management.
$1.6B teams leaves UBS to go indie
A wirehouse team led by a top Forbes advisor quit to form an independent practice with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network.

The team, which made the move in June, is comprised of Thomas Freeman, Ted Chartier, Matt Sayers and Susan Lynn Freeman. They are based in Leawood, Kansas.

Freeman was ranked as No. 2 in the state last year by Forbes, which listed his teams’ AUM as $1.6 billion. He had been with UBS since 2002, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.
Morgan Stanley agreed to sell a business that administers its alternative investment feeder funds to iCapital, a financial-technology firm run by a former Goldman Sachs banker.
Rockefeller nabs top Morgan Stanley advisor
Michael Merlin, a top-ranked advisor at Morgan Stanley, left the firm with his 12-person team to join a firm headed by another wirehouse alum: Greg Fleming, former president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Merlin joined Fleming’s new firm, Rockefeller Capital Management, in Atlanta. He was named last year as one of Barron’s top 1,200 financial advisors. His team’s AUM was listed as $1.6 billion.

In 2014, Merlin was No. 10 in On Wall Street’s Top 40 Under 40. At the time he was 39 years old and had production of $4.4 million and an AUM of $750 million.

His team made their move in January.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) headquarters building in Toronto, Canada, on Thursday, April 6, 2017 Bloomberg News
RBC wins big with $1.8B team from Merrill Lynch
RBC enticed away a $1.8 billion team from Merrill Lynch, building on a series of large hires.

Michael Busick, a member of the team, pointed to RBC’s “commitment to a client-first and advisor-centric culture” as a reason for making the move.

The team joined RBC in February in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In addition to Busick, the 16-person team is comprised of advisors Robert Cummings, Richard Vezina, David Tilkens, Mark Capomaccio, Robert Pratel, Trent Nelson, Janalee Busick, Jacob Cummings, Jordan Kawlewski and Trevor Skaggs. The group also has five client associates: Polly Roeser, Jamie Englebert, Carolyn Calaway, Jill Perock and Terry Rentmeester.

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$2B team returns to Morgan Stanley after UBS interlude
Morgan Stanley scooped up a team that managed more than $2 billion in client assets at UBS.

The team includes Paul Vigue, William Platt, Renato Reali and Grant Templin. They joined the firm in February at its Park Avenue Plaza Complex in New York.

Vigue, Platt and Reali are returning to Morgan Stanley, having left the firm for UBS in 2011. It turned out to be a short trip back — only four blocks separate their old UBS office in midtown and their new digs at Morgan Stanley, according to addresses listed on BrokerCheck.

Click here to read more.
First Republic bank logo Bloomberg News
First Republic nabs part of a multi-billion dollar team
A six-person group left J.P. Morgan Securities to join First Republic Bank in January, leaving behind several team members at their former employer.

The Jupiter, Florida-based group is made up of Salvatore Tiano, John Emery Smyth, Louis Ventura, Daniel Tumba, Jason O’Brien and Gregory Saville.

While with J.P. Morgan Securities, Tiano was ranked a top financial advisor for 2019 by Forbes. The magazine reported that his team managed $3.9 billion in client assets at the time.

Several former team members stayed with J.P. Morgan Securities, including Louise Armour who now heads the newly named Armour Group.

To read more about this move, click here.
Signage for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is displayed at the One Raffles Link building, which houses one of the Goldman Sachs (Singapore) Pte offices, in Singapore, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Singapore has expanded a criminal probe into fund flows linked to scandal-plagued 1MDB to include Goldman Sachs Group, which helped raise money for the entity, people with knowledge of the matter said. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg
Goldman Sachs loses 2 brokers to First Republic
After more than 15 years at Goldman Sachs, advisors Brian Zakrocki and Joe Wladyka left the firm to join First Republic.

The advisors oversaw more than $4 billion, according to Bloomberg. They made the move in May and are based in New York.
The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. logo is displayed in the reception area of the One Raffles Link building, which houses one of the Goldman Sachs (Singapore) Pte offices, in Singapore, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Singapore has expanded a criminal probe into fund flows linked to scandal-plagued 1MDB to include Goldman Sachs Group, which helped raise money for the entity, people with knowledge of the matter said. Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg
UBS hires $6B team from Goldman
In February, UBS landed a team that managed $6 billion and generated $20 million in production at Goldman Sachs.

The new hires — Gregory Divine and Denis Cleary — reflect the wirehouse’s focus on catering to elite advisors and their high-net-worth and ultrahigh-net-worth clients.

Devine and Cleary will operate from offices in Boston and Los Angeles. They started their advisory careers at Goldman Sachs in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
$11B Merrill Lynch team bolts for UBS
In January, UBS set a high bar for the biggest hire of the year.

The wirehouse recruited a Merrill Lynch team that oversaw $10.8 billion in client assets and generated $16 million in production.

A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman declined to comment on the departure.

The move eclipsed all but one of the biggest recruits in 2019.

The 17-member team joined UBS’ private wealth management unit in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company confirmed.

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