Anticipating a mass retirement of financial advisors, a group of former Morgan Stanley complex managers has left to start their own independent firm to get ahead of the trend. The focus—luring experienced senior advisors looking to exit the industry.

"With the average age of a financial advisor now over 60, and the massive wave that represents, our industry is facing a major crisis that has not been addressed to the complete satisfaction of advisors and their clients," says Michael Maurer, a founding partner and chief executive of Steward Partners Global Advisory, which clears through Raymond James. "Advisors are demanding a more comprehensive solution that provides greater diversification of retirement income with the flexibility required to help ensure their business stays intact and their clients are in good hands."

Maurer, who was most recently a managing director at Morgan Stanley, says that most advisors are confronted with having to sell their book of business to someone with whom they are unfamiliar and then receive a gradually declining percentage of the payout over five years. Steward Partners is hoping that by hiring teams, they can capture the lead advisor's book of business while also retaining younger talent to ensure the future of the firm.

Under the Steward Partners model, the retiring advisor and the advisor who is receiving the book of business will split the payout equally for up to six years, Maurer says. The retiring advisor is also transitioned into the consulting side of the business, Steward Partners Consulting, which pays $100 per hour and has no mandatory time commitment. Those advisors will no longer be licensed or advising clients, but their presence will help retain the team structure and make clients feel more comfortable about the transition, he says. The firm provides additional perks such as full medical coverage for up to seven years after retirement. So far the firm has hired a team of four with two junior-level and two associate-level advisors.

Maurer, 44, and another founding partner, Jim Gold, who was an executive director at Morgan Stanley and is 48, have already thought about what will happen when they too face the inevitable. The team is bringing in a third managing partner from Citigroup who will add another link to the chain of the succession of top management. They are also setting up a board of directors that includes outside executives who will help oversee the company. Overall, the firm, which is based in Washington, hopes to have around 50 to 60 partners primarily in the northeast corridor.

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