HighTower Advisors attracted financial advisors at a faster pace in the first quarter of this year than it did in all of last year.

Six teams officially joined HighTower in the first quarter, all transitioning from wirehouse firms, while an undisclosed number of others are now in the transition process, Mike Papedis, the executive vice president of business development, said in an interview Tuesday. In 2011, a total of nine teams transitioned to HighTower.

Those moves come as financial advisors looking to move to a new firm are embarking on what Papedis said he sometimes calls a Lewis and Clark expedition. Those financial advisors are typically looking at more than just the Wall Street firms, and Papedis says his team encourages them to explore.

“We don’t look to convince anybody that our model is better for them,” Papedis said Tuesday at IMCA’s annual conference in National Harbor, Md. Papedis and his team do work to let those advisors understand what HighTower’s partnership experience is like, who its other advisors are and what the firm represents.

“From that education, the teams are finding our model to be attractive and joining in an ever increasing number,” Papedis said.

HighTower, which is based in Chicago, has strived to set itself apart from other firms since it was established in 2008 with a model that lets advisors take part ownership in the firm.

The firm is also getting a reputation in the industry. Last week, at the Tiburon CEO Summit XXII in New York, Tiburon Strategic Advisors Managing Partner Charles “Chip” Roame used HighTower as an example of the breakaway shift of advisors to the independent channel. Roame estimated that 92% of HighTower’s advisor recruits came from wirehouse firms.

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