Goodbye Merrill Lynch: 37-year veteran with $360M starts indie firm
On Friday, Andy Ferguson was an advisor of 37 years at Merrill Lynch. On Monday, he took the leap to independence by starting his own fee-only RIA affiliated with Dynasty Financial Partners.
“It’s scary, but it’s exciting,” says Ferguson, who managed $360 million in assets at the wirehouse.
The Las Vegas-based advisor says he was motivated to start his own firm in part because he wanted more control over his practice. “I wanted to be able to walk in the door and only be able to answer to one constituency: my clients,” he says.
His new firm, Proquility Private Wealth Partners, custodies with Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions and manages money for 56 high-net-worth families and philanthropic foundations around the country.
Ferguson says he chose Dynasty for its technology platform and capacity to walk him through every stage of the transition. He also considered and passed on moving to other wirehouses, regional and independent broker-dealers and other large RIAs.
He first contemplated going independent about 12 years ago during the last recession, but the industry’s digital evolution made it easier to do today.
“Technology leveled the playing field between independent advisors and wirehouse advisors,” Ferguson says, adding that the virtualization of the industry during the coronavirus pandemic has given clients comfort with remote planning. “With all the things going on in the world right now, it’s a good time for us to make this move.”
For years at Merrill, Ferguson, a CFP, operated on a largely fee-only basis, he says. But full independence, he believes, will strengthen his practice’s intergenerational focus.
To that end, he and his colleagues instruct clients’ teenage grandchildren in the basics of finance, he says, teaching them about balance sheets, savings and how credit cards can hurt or help them.
“Grandma and grandpa think it’s wonderful because we are taking care of something that can be hard to discuss,” Ferguson says. “I’ve had those youngsters [take] control of the family resources. Hopefully we taught them from day one to do it right. Part of [the multigenerational strategy] is self-preservation. We haven’t wanted to see clients leave.”
In going independent, Ferguson says he invested “several hundred thousand dollars” of his own money for a new office and operational expenses, including marketing, printing, legal and insurance costs.
“I’m in a fortunate position to be able to self-fund this whole project,” he says. The firm’s name is an amalgam of the words “professional” and “tranquility.”
Another former Merrill planner Patty Yeager has joined Proquility as wealth management advisor. Ferguson recently hired a new client experience director, Trevor Hooton.
The firm is “actively interviewing” to expand its team, Ferguson says.