After spending 10 years as a financial advisor at major brokerage firms like UBS and Morgan Stanley, Donald P. Southwick is convinced that holistic financial planning is the best way to serve wealth management clients.

So his team broke away and formed a hybrid firm called Doeren Mayhew Financial Advisors.

Doeren Mayhew, a large and respected accounting and management consulting company based in Troy, Mich., launched the new venture in July, and announced it last week. The new business will be a boon for Doeren Mayhew, according to Mark Crawford, a managing director at the accounting firm.

“The creation of DMFA substantially increases our depth of experience and expertise in the financial planning and advisory arena, and improves our ability to offer clients a full breadth of professional services all from one source," he said.

Southwick’s team benefits, too. Certified public accounting firms consistently top the list of companies that could help him grow his business.

“CPAs are very trusted by clients,” Southwick said. “We have a firm inside a CPA firm. We love it.”

And although he took his group on an atypical route — financial advisors at brokerage firms usually start at regional certified public accounting firms before joining wirehouses — the reverse progression is okay.

Doeren Mayhew Financial Advisors hired Romy Gingras, a certified financial planner, to run its high-net-worth and family office business, one of its three business lines. Gingras worked at Independent Bank, also in Troy.

Southwick, who was founder, president and chief executive officer of SkyTrust in Cincinnati before working at UBS [UBS] and Morgan Stanley [MS], said that serving wealthy clients begins with good financial planning, and not just a sales pitch for the product. “We’re trying to get them to go though the same process she designed, and have a well-done financial plan,” he said.

The firm will also provide advisory services to manage defined contribution plans, defined benefit plans and non-qualified plans through its business consulting services line, and to advise municipalities, schools and banks under the institutional group.

Southwick said the group brought over all of its clients business from Morgan Stanley, but declined to say what its current assets under management are.

Southwick says his team is excited about the move, but a few clients had questions about a pair of lawsuits filed last February that accused two of Doeren Mayhew’s directors and their wives of carrying out a $250 million Ponzi scheme. Southwick said he knew about the lawsuit while negotiating with Doeren Mayhew about starting the venture, and referred clients directly to Crawford to answer their questions. The clients eventually stayed with the firm, he said.


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