Oppenheimer & Co.'s culture has won the company a lot of admiration from financial advisors, and it also may have helped it score a considerable prize from one of the wirehouses.

Oppenheimer announced it hired Douglas W. Damrow from UBS Wealth Management Americas. Damrow will be an assistant manager of its wealth office in Chicago, and lead the push to recruit other advisors and open other offices in the area.

With 800 professionals, its wealth management group is smaller than major wirehouses such as Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which had around 18,140 advisors at the end of the first quarter. That means advisors have much more direct access to Albert “Bud” Lowenthal, Oppenheimer’s chief executive officer, and Robert Okin, who runs the private client group.

Oppenheimer’s score makes sense at a time like this, when advisors are looking to move from one firm to another either because they are disenchanted with their current firm, or the payouts are better elsewhere, said Mindy Diamond, president of Diamond Consultants in Chester, N.J., an executive search firm that specializes in financial advisors.

“At the very least they are exploring their options elsewhere,” she said. “They are asking ‘do I believe where I am is the best place to service my clients in the long run?’”

Damrow’s move is even more telling because Oppenheimer's transition package lags behind other wirehouses and regional brokerage firms, Diamond said. Regional brokerage firms can offer at least 50% higher trailing 12-month packages than Oppenheimer, and wirehouses surpass them even more, by as much as 250%, she said.

Advisors, however, cannot overlook the compensation issue. It is a wrinkle that has derailed many deals with advisors who genuinely love the environment at Oppenheimer, but ultimately decide to pass on the recruitment packages. Although Damrow’s connections in the wirehouse channel could hold enough sway with disenfranchised advisors looking to make a move, Diamond suggests Oppenheimer would ultimately have to beef up its payout grid to compete for wirehouse advisors.

Oppenheimer was unable to respond by press time as to whether it had laid aside more capital to fund better transition packages.

“No matter how much an advisor tells you it is not about the money, it is about the money,” Diamond said. “My instincts tell me it will be an uphill battle.”

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