A Merrill Lynch team from the firm’s elite ultrahigh net-worth unit has bolted to launch its own firm on the Dynasty Financial Partners platform.

Matthew Celenza, two other longtime team members with Merrill’s Private Banking and Investment Group, and a fourth colleague have opened Boulevard Family Wealth in Beverly Hills, California, their new partner announced Tuesday. The team had managed $1 billion in client assets at Merrill, according to Dynasty.

Breakaway RIAs have doubled over the past five years.

Dynasty, the industry’s leading platform provider, has added 10 RIAs so far this year and 45 since 2010. Rivals like HighTower, United Capital and Focus Financial Partners are waging a fight to bring on breakaway advisers as well, and Dynasty has beefed up its financing offers to attract more firms from the growing stream of new independents.

“We find that a lot of advisers want to be independent but not alone,” Dynasty CEO Shirl Penney said at last month’s Pershing Insite conference. “At this point, it’s not a trend. It’s a movement.”

A Merrill spokeswoman declined to comment on the departures by Celenza, fellow advisers Shannon McLaughlin and Andrea Shieh, and Andrew Aiello, the new indie firm’s head of insurance strategies.

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Celenza, the team’s leader, started at Boulevard on Monday after six years at Merrill, according to SEC filings. His team moved a short walk from its former office, which is on Wilshire Boulevard near the famed Rodeo Drive. Celenza’s 20-year career also includes tenures at Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney.

Matthew Celenza, Boulevard Family Wealth
Matthew Celenza launched Boulevard Family Wealth this month. (Photo: Michelle Fretz)

Like him, McLaughlin spent six years at Merrill’s Beverly Hills branch following four months at Barclays and roughly four years at Morgan Stanley. Shieh took the same path, and the trio left Citigroup back in 2009 on the same date as well, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Aiello had worked in Merrill’s UHNW Solutions Department before joining the new firm. Dynasty provides TAMP services along with operational and back office support to Boulevard, according to the new firm’s ADV form. Boulevard does not receive any fees paid to Dynasty or third parties on its platform.

The partnership gives the new firm “a greatly expanded selection of investment capabilities, lending platforms, sophisticated insurance products, planning resources, capital market solutions, and alternative manager opportunities,” Celenza said in a statement.

Penney had upped Dynasty’s ante in the fight for RIA business in May, bidding a multiple of five to six times firms’ revenue for a 5% to 10% stake in future revenues. A spokeswoman for Dynasty confirmed that its latest deal fit this description.

In its last deal before Boulevard, Dynasty formed a partnership last month with Shelton, Connecticut-based Procyon Partners. The team left UBS, where it had managed $8 billion for institutions and $400 million in individual client assets. The Swiss wirehouse has filed a lawsuit against the breakaway team.

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