Two Merrill Lynch advisors who oversaw a combined $165 million in AUM moved to Steward Partners, an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services, according to a spokesman.

The two advisors generated more than $1.1 million in annual revenue while at the wirehouse, the spokesman said.

One of the two advisors, Steve Bricker, says he spent about eight years at Merrill where he managed more than $100 million in assets. At Steward, he joins the second advisor making a move,  fellow ex-Merrill advisor John Pappas. Pappas left the wirehouse late last year and had managed about $60 million in assets. The two are longtime friends. "We're both Miami Dolphins fans so we developed a kinship," Bricker says.


The two advisors, both solo practitioners, say they went to the independent channel partially because of how much wirehouse culture changed after the 2008 financial crisis. They say that after they became part of a larger bank, the environment was less personal and the pressures greater, including those coming from compliance and regulations.

"It just wasn't the same place anymore," says Pappas, who still had a hard time making the move.  "It took me about a year and a half before I made a decision."

"[Steward is] not forcing me to refer clients to the bank or anything like that. It's a nice change of environment," says Bicker, who has known the firm's president since they worked at Smith Barney in the early 2000s.

Bricker and Pappas are based out of the Portsmouth, N.H., office of Steward Partners, which has additional offices in Andover, Mass., New York, Washington, and Bethesda, Md.

Pappas notes that he waited for the right fit to go independent.

"I'm a people person. I didn't want to go into an office by myself," he says. "I wanted a larger environment, and Steward offered the best of both worlds. You get the feel that there are other people around you but you're running an independent practice."

Both advisors say they like the affiliation with Raymond James and the open architecture platform. They add that they like the service they receive from management and the overall firm. "It's a much smaller advisor to assistant ratio here than at the typical wirehouse," Pappas says.

Steward Partners has recruited advisors who managed about $1.7 billion in assets, says and the firm's president Jim Gold, who expects more advisors to join this year.

"When we first launched, we were talking about a concept with no offices and no advisors yet," Gold says. "It seems like the level of interest is at an all-time high from where we started."

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