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After 26 years with BD, $206M advisor bolts for Kestra

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Financial advisor Michelle Merkel compiled a 10-page outline of what she wanted from her new independent broker-dealer before choosing Kestra Financial.

After 26 years as an affiliate of Principal Securities, Merkel says she aimed to grow Columbus, Ohio-based Merkel Financial through more resources, better technology for her clients and more responsive service for her team. Another factor also affected the process: Finding the right balance between her business and her personal life, she says.

"There's a huge opportunity for women in this industry,” says Merkel. “There are a lot of women that are tied to a practice."

Merkel believes it can be challenging for women advisors with families to go independent because they often seek the stability of remaining with the same firm. The move came down to more than just her and the practice, she says.

She also felt the lure of gaining more independence after decades in an insurance-affiliated branch setup, though she says she’s always seen herself as independent. The team began considering the move several years ago, she says.

Close to half of potential breakaway brokers say they’re more likely to go independent over the next 12 months than they were at the end of 2018, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade. Merkel’s practice, which has $206 million in client assets, opted for Kestra’s RIA and tech offerings.

The firm understands “the depth of resources required to support and grow a wealth management team of Merkel Financial’s magnitude,” Daniel Schwamb, senior vice president of business development, said in a statement.

Representatives for Principal did not answer requests for comment on the move. Merkel affiliated with Kestra on May 1, according to FINRA BrokerCheck.

Founded in 1992, the practice provides wealth management and estate planning services to high-net-worth clients such as business owners and entrepreneurs, according to the firm. Kestra won Merkel over with the resources to boost its scale, she says.

“I needed to make sure I had an infrastructure that could support the growth that I know we’re capable of having and an infrastructure that would support my vision,” Merkel says.

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