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$11B Merrill Lynch team bolts for UBS

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It’s only January, but UBS is already setting a high bar for the biggest hire of the year.

The wirehouse recruited a Merrill Lynch team that oversaw $10.8 billion in client assets and generated $16 million in production.

A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman declined to comment on the departure.

The new move eclipses all but one of the biggest recruits in 2019. It also comes at a time of reduced recruiting among the wirehouses. UBS cut back on its hiring efforts in 2016, saying it wanted to reroute resources to advisors already at the company. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have made similar moves.

Still, UBS continues to selectively add advisors catering to high-net-worth and ultrahigh-net-worth clients. Last year, it added a $6.6 billion team from Goldman Sachs.

But the addition of the Wickham Cash Partners eclipses even that big hire and is the largest hire the firm has had since 2011, according to a person familiar with the matter. The 17-member team joined UBS’ private wealth management unit in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company confirmed.

“As one of Charlotte’s leading private wealth teams, Wickham Cash Partners will be a strong addition to our private wealth management business, as we continue to expand our local presence in Charlotte and the Carolinas,” John Mathews, head of UHNW Americas and Private Wealth Management at UBS, said in a statement.

The group includes R. Mitchell Wickham, Gregory Cash, Ronald Bryson, Ray Evans III, John North Moore, Trevor Hoke, Cameron Elliott, Emily Dannenhoffer, Matthew Mclaughlin, Holly Giacobone, Jessica Schumacher, Laura Killette, Erin Benedetto, Lincoln Steelman, Brianna Stanley, Shareese Weldon and Jonathan Brick.

The team includes several veterans of Merrill Lynch. Wickham, for example, started his career at Merrill Lynch in 1999, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Cash had been there since 1997, Bryson since 1990.

The team had utilized Merrill’s Money Manager Services, a special custody and clearing service that the wirehouse was winding down because it was not a core wealth management offering and was used by less than 1% of FAs, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Though the departure may be seen by industry insiders as a blow to Merrill Lynch, the wirehouse is coming off a record 2019. The firm’s advisors brought in 40,000 new accounts last year and boosted client balances to a record $3 trillion, according to the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

UBS reports earnings later this month.

Among the largest recruiting moves last year was a $17 billion departure from First Republic. That exit was composed of 50 advisors splitting into two new RIAs. The second-largest recruiting move of 2019 was a $7.5 billion team that left UBS for RBC.

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