$311M Merrill Lynch team joins growing LPL hybrid platform

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Two Merrill Lynch advisors managing $311 million in client assets bolted for a hybrid RIA in the third addition to LPL’s platform in the last three months.

Sharon Barton — who had spent 31 years with the wirehouse — and partner Jay Spector took Barton Spector Wealth Strategies to the LPL-affiliated Stratos Wealth Partners, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer announced this week. The advisors operate their practice in Scottsdale, Arizona.

At $166.4 billion, the hybrid platform’s share of LPL’s assets has grown by 360 basis points to 31% during the past year, according to its latest earnings report. While it lost one practice to Triad Advisors in May, the platform added teams from Ameriprise and Wells Fargo in recent months.

“The implementation of the Department of Labor rule ultimately became the impetus for us to make the move to the independent model so we could have what we needed to operate our business successfully and in the best interest of our clients,” Barton said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch declined to comment on the pair’s exit.

Advisors on the move: 37 of the biggest recent jumps
Raymond James grabbed five multi-million teams in a month. Other firms to see big transitions include Wells Fargo and Ameriprise.

Barton started her career at Merrill in 1986, while Spector came aboard in 2011, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Spector, a CFP, began his advisory career at RBC in 2006, moving over to Wells Fargo Advisors two years later. Both formally joined LPL on July 28.

The partners aligned their practice with Stratos, a Beachwood, Ohio-based RIA whose advisors are contractors. Stratos reorganized last year, opening a separate asset management firm called Fundamentum and a second retail firm under the same parent, according to its SEC Form ADV.

Stratos Wealth Partners lists 249 advisors, 16,000 clients and $4.3 billion in assets under management. LPL charges it a fee for business conducted through other BDs or custodians, but LPL provides Stratos advisors with transition assistance payments based on their books at prior firms, the SEC filing shows.

Advisor headcounts at Merrill Lynch and LPL have lately been moving in opposite directions. The wirehouse’s thundering herd expanded by 254 brokers in the second quarter to boost its headcount to 14,811. LPL has shed a net 121 advisors this year, dropping its headcount to 14,256.

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