Seven advisors have left Merrill Lynch to form their own independent firm with help from Dynasty Financial Partners.

The advisors worked at Merrill's elite Private Banking & Investment Group where they managed $3.3 billion in combined client assets.

Team members include Chris Copps, Gordon Hassenplug, Darren Henderson, Michael Phelps, Alex Stimpson, Jon Tenney and Greg Walters.

Their new firm, Corient Capital, is based in Newport Beach, Calif.

Copps had been with Merrill since 2001, according to BrokerCheck records. He says that the group formed the firm in part to better customize their service model for clients.

"As a truly independent firm, we can now separate where the advice is given to our clients from where products are manufactured," Copps says. "This fiduciary based advisory model is the future of the wealth management industry and it’s important that we are on the forefront of this movement for our clients."


Another advantage to going independent: Not competing for prospective clients with other Merrill advisors or employees at U.S Trust, another unit of Bank of America.

"Anytime you are in a big firm, you are constantly bumping into each other. There's just a lot of sharp elbows," Henderson told Bloomberg.

A source tells On Wall Street that the departing group composed less than 5% of Merrill's advisors in Orange County, where Newport Beach is located.

"Despite the number of advisors in the industry shrinking, Merrill Lynch has recruited more than 150 experienced advisors in 2015, while attrition is at historic lows," a spokesman for Merrill Lynch says.

Merrill's recruiting efforts have included several large teams and advisors this year.

 In Los Angeles, the wirehouse picked up Bruce Munster, a Morgan Stanley advisor who previously managed $1.2 billion in client assets. Munster was featured as No. 7 in On Wall Street's annual ranking of the Top 40 Advisors Under 40.


Corient is among the biggest teams that Dynasty has helped turn into independent investment advisors over its five-year history, according to Shirl Penney, Dynasty’s founder. In June, the firm helped a group managing $3 billion at Deutsche Bank to break away and form their own firm.

The 20,000 independent RIAs in the U.S. have gained market share every year since 2007, more than doubling their assets to $2.7 trillion as of 2014, according to Aite Group. By comparison, client assets at the largest retail brokerages of UBS Group AG, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Bank of America rose 14 percent to $6.6 trillion in the same period, Aite said.

"Dynasty was built to service advisors just like these and we could not be more pleased to welcome them to our growing community," Dynasty Chairman Todd Thomson said in a statement.

Several of the team members had been with Merrill for more than a decade, according to BrokerCheck.

Stimpson launched his advisory career at HSBC Securities in 1989, moving to Merrill in 1999, while Hassenplug had been at Merrill since joining the industry in 1998. Phelps began his career at Merrill in 2003.

Henderson, Tenney and Walters moved to the wirehouse from Goldman Sachs in 2008.

Copps, the senior-most team member, spent more than a decade of his 32-year career at Merrill.

Also joining the team from Merrill Lynch are support staff members Heather Hargrove, Tami Hay, Nicole McMann, Cole Turner and Austin Allen.

--Additional reporting by Bloomberg News.

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