A $2.2 billion team of more than a dozen advisers and staff has departed from Morgan Stanley in favor of independence, citing the desire for a more varied menu of products and services to offer its clients as a chief reason for leaving the wirehouse.

(Bloomberg News)
(Bloomberg News)

The Wichita, Kansas-based team is now operating under the name 6 Meridian (a reference to a departure point for 19th century surveyors exploring the western regions of the country). Team members include founding partners Tom Kirk, Margaret Dechant, Andrew Mies, Bryan Green, Steve Bahm, Pam Smith and Sarah Hampton.

The group anticipates delivering more customized portfolios and a service model with fewer of the institutional restrictions in place at the brokerage giant.

"You're a captive audience, right?" asks Dechant, 6 Meridian's CEO, while discussing restrictions on employee advisers who work at Morgan and other wirehouses.

"They have a very good platform that's very robust," she says, but notes that her team ran into limitations around the products and investment strategies they could offer through the Morgan Stanley platform, as well as some pricing disadvantages in areas like municipal bonds. As an independent RIA, she says, the goal is to "expand our investment portfolio beyond the bandwidth that they allowed."

"Our anticipation is that almost immediately we would be able to provide our clients with better
pricing on municipal bonds, better efficiency on trading," Dechant says.

A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley declined to comment on the team's exit.

The departure of the 6 Meridian team, which operated as the Kirk Bahm Group while under the Morgan Stanley umbrella, comes as the latest in a string of breakaway brokers exiting the big wirehouses to strike out as independent advisers.

Among other factors, Dechant says that concerns about complying with the Department of Labor's new fiduciary rule helped sway her team toward the independent model. She points out that as an RIA, the group will be held to a best-interest fiduciary standard under SEC rules.

The 13-perspn 6 Meridian team has tapped Pershing Advisor Solutions to serve as its custodian, and is placing the "vast majority" of its high-net worth clients in fee-only advisory accounts, Dechant says.

Dechant, Kirk, Mies and Smith had been with Morgan Stanley since 2008 and before that had worked for Citigroup, according to FIRNA BrokerCheck records. Green and Hampton had started at Morgan in 2008, and had also worked for Citigroup previously.

Bahm, a bond market specialist, according to Morgan promotional materials, has worked in the fixed income management industry since the early 1980s.


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