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$650M team ditches Morgan Stanley for independence

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Morgan Stanley has lost a $650 million team as advisors Lee Korn, Jesse Giordano, Joseph Filosa and their team go independent — and leverage a life coach to boost their holistic financial planning offering.

The ability to build a more client-centric culture was a big motivator for the move, firm cofounder Giordano says.

“Our skill sets that are pretty strong are human behavior and coaching,” Giordano says. “So we have a life coaching conversation built into all of the work that we do. It’s particularly useful when someone is at some sort of a crossroad.”

Formerly known as the 360 Group at Morgan, the eight-person practice now goes by Opal Wealth Advisors, and offers a hybrid broker-dealer option through Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments. The Jericho, New York-based firm comprises three advisors, four administrative assistants and the life coach.

Shifting the firm’s culture begins “with questions and conversations with clients about what’s really most important to them and what they really want to achieve,” Giordano says. “Rather than looking at just a financial number or a dollar amount that they need in the end in order to build a financial plan.”

Giordano has 14 years of industry experience, according to his FINRA BrokerCheck profile including stints with Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch. Korn, a 21-year industry veteran, previously worked for Smith Barney and Edward Jones. Filosa has 14 years of industry experience and has previously worked with Smith Barney and Gunnallen Financial.

Advisors exiting wirehouses often cite the restrictive and hierarchical structure of bank-backed firms as a reason to leave.

“It’s certainly different cultures,” Giordano says.

Morgan did bring together in one place services as varied as banking, research and custodial service, he says. But the wirehouse was too focused on getting the “best returns for our shareholders,” he says.

The team spent nine and a half years at Morgan, which declined to comment on the move.

Opal’s client base consists of business owners, retirees and clients in need of comprehensive planning following a major life event, such as the death of a spouse.

With its new strategy in place, the firm plans to expand.

“We are looking to grow a firm of high quality financial advisors who are looking to make a real difference in people’s lives,” Giordano says. “The financial planning conversation is a great entry and doorway into a much deeper conversation.”

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