Steward Partners heads west, hiring $600M team from RBC

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Steward Partners is going west.

The firm has opened its 14th office — its first away from the East Coast — by recruiting a team that previously managed $600 million in client assets at RBC, the independent firm says.

Advisor Randy Price and his son Matthew now staff Steward Partners' new branch in Houston. It’s the firm’s first location in Texas and represents a new stage of growth for the Washington-based company, which is affiliated with Raymond James.

Founded in 2013 by former wirehouse managers, Steward Partners had already grown to include 13 offices on the East Coast. Although the firm's short history has been primarily focused on the Washington-to-Boston corridor, expanding to Texas is natural, executives say.

"The reasons are obvious: It's the second largest state in the nation, and lots of wealth is being created, and not just in oil and gas," says Chris Barton, who joined Steward Partners earlier this year as a divisional president in Dallas.

Jeff Gonyo, also a divisional president, adds that the firm strives to ensure it can achieve scale when expanding to a new market. Timing was also a key factor, he says, noting that in addition to recruiting the Price group, Steward Partners hired Barton earlier this year. Barton was previously with Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley for 23 years and had worked with several Steward Partners' executives, including Gonyo and CEO Jim Gold.

"It was fortuitous from that perspective," Gonyo says.

For their part, the Price team explored different options over a three-year period before settling on Steward Partners.

"We got frustrated by some of the ways things were managed [at RBC] and the limitations from a client perspective," Randy Price says.

He felt Steward Partners offered a superior platform, more flexibility to serve client needs and a client-first approach.

"It sounds corny, but at the end of the day, there are massive conflicts at the major brokerage firms. And unless you are out-and-about, you don't see it," he says.

Asked for comment on the team's departure, a spokeswoman for RBC said in a statement that: "For more than a century, RBC Wealth Management has provided trusted advice and wealth management solutions to individuals, families and institutions. With no proprietary products to push, our advisors are able to choose the solutions that best meet the clients' needs."

The Price team also considered opening their own RIA, but discounted the idea because they thought being full-time owners would add too many demands on their time.

"We think this model lets us focus on the client without having to worry about whether the Internet is on and the phones are working," Matthew Price says.

An industry veteran of 31 years, the elder Price had been with RBC since 1999, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He has past work experience at Lehman Brothers and Smith Barney.

His son joined him at RBC in 2011. They both have CFP and CIMA designations.

The new hires come just a month after Steward Partners recruited a Merrill Lynch team managing $180 million in assets. Advisors Richard Godfrey and Matthew Spradlin opened a new office for the independent firm in Richmond, Virginia. That same month, the firm also picked up a Wells Fargo team that oversaw $170 million in client assets. Alan Raffer, his son Jeremy, and CFP Sherry Birnbaum are based in Paramus, New Jersey.

While opening new offices may be on the horizon, Steward Partners' leadership says they're focused on growing in their current locations, including the newest branch in Houston.

"We've put down a sign that says 'We're open and ready for business,'" Barton says.

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