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Ex-HighTower RIA recruits $1.2B advisor from Fidelity

An advisor who oversaw $1.2 billion joined Verdence Capital, a $2 billion RIA with ambitious growth plans.

Meg Sheil-Puopolo, who previously worked at Fidelity Investments, joined Verdence in Baltimore where she will serve high-net-worth clients and families. Hires such as Sheil-Puopolo are key to Verdence’s expansion efforts, says CEO Leo Kelly.

Verdence, which was previously affiliated with HighTower Advisors, is hoping to attract more advisors who fit its culture and are looking to affiliate with an existing independent firm for the back office support and other resources it can offer, he says.

“What we know is that as we grow AUM, it affords us the resources to build out this offering,” Kelly says.
The move comes on the heels of a number of large advisor moves, including a $6.6 billion team that left Goldman for UBS. A slew of advisors have set up RIAs or joined existing ones in recent years, drawn to the space for its perceived flexibility and fiduciary status.

But recent departures from the Broker Protocol have complicated some of these career transitions. For instance, non-protocol member firm Morgan Stanley has sued several teams that left to join competitors, arguing that the brokers had violated non-solicitation agreements. Morgan Stanley recruits, meanwhile, have also been on the receiving end of such lawsuits; a $750 million team that left Schwab for the wirehouse was the target of a legal fight over client contacts.

For her part, Sheil-Puopolo says she was drawn to Verdence because of its resources, corporate environment, fiduciary status and the opportunity to be part of something “growing from the ground up.” She knew of Verdence because of her friendship with the firm’s COO.

“I met with the team and I was really impressed with them and their unique way of doing planning. It’s really collaborative,” she says.

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Kelly says he was “excited” about the prospect of hiring after that meeting. “She passed the first and foremost important test: She fit the culture. She was client first, and passionate and caring. You can’t fake passion and caring.”

Sheil-Puopolo had been with Fidelity for 18 years, having transitioned into financial planning after working as a molecular biologist.

Sheil-Puopolo says preferred affiliating with an existing RIA to starting her own because she didn’t want to be tied down with burdens of running a firm. “I enjoy getting to know my clients, planning and building relationships. That’s what I wanted to be at the forefront of what I am doing.”

Her move to Verdence follows the firm’s hiring in March of former NFL player Noel LaMontagne, who now serves as a client relationship manager focused on sports and entertainment.

Verdence, which is headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, also has two offices in Northern Virginia.

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