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$1M Merrill producer jumps to Raymond James, cites fiduciary policy

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A Merrill Lynch adviser who generated over $1 million in annual revenue moved to Raymond James, citing the firm's culture and plans to comply with the fiduciary rule.

Patricia Bennett and two assistants joined the firm last week in Louisville, Kentucky, where she reunites with branch manager Tom Hirsch who also previously worked at Merrill.

Bennett was attracted to Raymond James in part because the regional firm, in contrast to Merrill Lynch, has said it would continue to offer commission-based under the fiduciary rule.

"We want to be able to rise to whatever the occasion is based on the client's needs," she tells On Wall Street.

While Merrill has previously said it would phase out such accounts, Andy Sieg, head of the firm recently said that "operational changes" are possible if the fiduciary rule is delayed or overturned. The Department of Labor has proposed delaying the regulation by 60 days to complete a review ordered by President Trump, which could lead to the rule's demise.

A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch wasn't immediately available for comment.

The firm also recruited an international wealth management team that oversaw $576 million, according to our latest roundup of recent hires and moves.
March 6

Bennett isn't the only adviser to leave the wirehouse in part because of its fiduciary rule policies; Brad Parsons also recently joined Raymond James from Merrill for similar reasons.

Of course, Merrill's stance on the rule hasn't prevented it from recruiting top advisers; the wirehouse recently lured away a broker who managed over $600 million in assets from Morgan Stanley. Merrill's total adviser headcount stood at 14,629 for the fourth quarter, up 129 from the year-ago period.

For her part, Bennett says that additional considerations motivated her move, including Raymond James' platform and the opportunity to work again with Hirsch. Visiting the firm's headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, helped sealed the deal.

"I went three separate times because I wanted to make sure that I fully vetted this out," she says. "This wasn't an easy decision. It took about two years to make."


Bennett previously managed more than $138 million in client assets while at the wirehouse, according to Raymond James.

Also moving with her are practice business coordinator Heather Poole and registered client service associate Kristen Swanson. Together, the team operates as Creekstone Financial Group.

"We're really excited to work with Tom again," Bennett says.

Her practice is focused on three types of clients: retirees, owners of family-run businesses and divorcees. "We see a common denominator between emotions and money. So our practice is focused on the whole person," she says.

Bennett, 52, started as an adviser at Smith Barney in 2004 as a second career, having previously held corporate positions at Eastman Kodak and Lexmark. Hirsch recruited her to Merrill in 2007.

"A lot of people thought I was crazy to start over in what is a risky profession because so many people don't make a career out of this. But I loved the ability to make a difference for clients," she says, adding she can't imagine retiring from this profession.

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