As part of its initiative to reach $5 billion in assets under management within five years, Evercore Wealth Management celebrated its first anniversary Monday by announcing it signed a definitive agreement to buy Morse, Williams and Co. Inc.

Founded in 1981 as a registered investment advisor, Morse Williams manages $190 million for individual clients, families and related institutions.

Evercore, which also launched a new website on Monday, is a unit of Evercore Partners Inc. that offers financial planning, trust and custody services to high-net-worth individuals, families and related institutions. The unit, which had $1.5 billion as of Dec. 31, has offices in New York and San Francisco, is armed with a slew of wealth management veterans that chose to jump ship from U.S. Trust after it was acquired by Bank of America Corp.

Evercore Wealth Management has grown quickly in the past six months, but the New York-based company’s top executive said he expects to reach $5 billion in the next five years. “We are off to a good start in a turbulent environment,” said Jeffrey S. Maurer, Evercore’s chairman and chief executive officer. “But I would say we’d be disappointed if we weren’t at $5 billion by our fifth anniversary. Right now, it is a question of how to get there. We are going to consider organic and inorganic means.”

To reach that goal, Maurer said that he wants to get back to “an old school asset management model” where advisors work more directly with investment clients. Evercore has a staff of 35 people, including 15 partners. Probably 70% of those partners are former executives from U.S. Trust, Maurer estimated. “The backbone of this organization are skilled portfolio managers that felt they could no longer conduct business the way that they wanted to [at Bank of America,]” he said.

Maurer, who was the chief executive officer of U.S. Trust in 2003 when it was owned by Charles Schwab & Co., said he began recruiting executives from U.S. Trust after it was bought by BofA in 2007. “I think a lot of my colleagues realized that after Bank of America bought U.S. Trust the basic wealth management service delivery model was going to change and they were not going to have as rewarding of a position [after BofA bought it,]” he said. “When you look at it in general, these advisers wanted to deal directly with their customers, and they weren’t going to be able to do that at BofA.”

In May, Evercore bought Bank of America Special Fiduciary Services Division and established the Evercore Trust Co. to focus on providing investment management, independent fiduciary and trust services to independent benefit plans and large corporations. A month later, Evercore opened its first satellite office in San Francisco and added four partners and senior advisors. 

Maurer said Evercore is interested in adding offices nationally. “Evercore Partners is global but Evercore Wealth Management is domestic so far.” Maurer said. Evercore Partners owns 51% of Evercore Wealth Management while the unit’s partners own the rest. 

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