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$4.3M Morgan Stanley advisor prefers a 'horizontal working environment'

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This profile appeared earlier this year as part of On Wall Street's Top 40 Under 40. All details are as of Sept. 31, 2017. To see who else made the top 10, please click here.

At age 34, Adam Merino made his third appearance on the Top 40 Under 40 ranking, coming in at No. 6 with $4.338 million in production. But that’s hardly surprising. Success has come early in Merino's life.

As a college intern, he was vetting top-shelf hedge fund managers for consideration in the portfolios of the ultrahigh-net worth-clients of CTC Consulting in Portland, Oregon. Then throughout his senior year at Lewis and Clark College, Merino was working as a full-time, 40-hour-a-week employee at CTC. (If that wasn't enough, he also played on Lewis and Clark's basketball team.)

Merino's work evaluating hedge fund leaders put him in the company of some of Wall Street's top managers when he was barely old enough to buy a drink, while also steeping him in the analytical, research-heavy side of the business.

"The initial year or year-and-a-half of work at CTC really helped to build out my analytical skillset, but really when it comes down to evaluating a money manager, it's more a qualitative decision," he says. "That's something that you only learn from sitting in with money managers."

After college Merino decamped to New York, joining U.S. Trust and then, following that firm's acquisition by Bank of America, he jumped to Morgan Stanley in the summer of 2007.

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At that time, the markets were heading into a period of volatility that would spiral into a full-blown meltdown, and by 2009, only Merino and his long-time mentor, Bob Stolar, were left from the original team.

"There was definite fear in the marketplace," Merino recalls, though he describes that upheaval as "an opportunity to get more and more ingrained with our largest clients, and become more of a source of trust and relief for them."

"It goes to show you that if you stick it out and do right by your clients, in the long run you'll do pretty well," he says.

Now Merino is a managing director at his firm, which he jointly heads up with Stolar, leading a team of six and serving a roster of around 35 families, whose average wealth Merino ballparks at around $75 million.

Merino emphasizes the team-oriented model of his practice, eschewing a "hierarchical" structure in favor of a "horizontal working environment" where all members work collaboratively and sit at the same desk.

"We're all actively engaging each other, asking questions," he says. "We all wear multiple hats, so there's not a defined role for one person versus another."

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