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Merrill Lynch departures fuel RBC hiring surge

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RBC Wealth Management has recruited more than three dozen advisors in recent months, the bulk of which have come from Merrill Lynch, continuing a trend of regional BDs picking off wirehouse talent.

Of 37 advisors RBC hired since Aug. 1, two dozen came from Merrill Lynch, according to the regional BD’s hiring announcements. Those former Merrill advisors, some of whom are industry veterans, managed $2.9 billion, RBC said.

The regional BD, with approximately 1,900 financial advisors, is about 1/7th the size of Merrill Lynch — a fact that may work in its favor, according to recruiter Michael King.

“If they need access to senior people, they can get it,” King says.

The brokerage’s ownership by the Royal Bank of Canada is likely another factor in its favor, King adds, saying that “makes some people feel more secure.”

An RBC spokeswoman says the firm does not announce all of its new hires, but that recruiting is more than double what it was three years ago. The brokerage also casts a wide net, she says. “We are very focused on attracting talent from all across the industry and have seen great interest in our platform from advisors at nearly every firm.”

RBC has attracted advisors from other wirehouses, but per its hiring announcements, those figures fall well below what it has pulled from Merrill Lynch branch offices. So far this year, nine former UBS advisors managing approximately $1.3 billion joined the regional BD. Six Wells Fargo advisors overseeing $400 million made the switch, according to RBC.

Of course, it’s not unusual for a regional broker-dealer to hire wirehouse advisors. In recent years, several of these smaller competitors have updated their technology platforms and positioned themselves as havens for discontented wirehouse brokers.

Stifel, for example, has hired approximately 30 former Merrill Lynch advisors year-to-date. The recruits previously oversaw $5 billion in assets, according to the regional BD.

Among RBC’s new hires is the Denver-based Santangelo Group that oversaw $246 million before leaving Merrill Lynch earlier this month. The team is comprised of advisors Jay Paul Santangelo, Pasha Ghaemi and Foster Manierre. Registered Client Associate Kali McFarland also made the move.

They were attracted to RBC for its culture and resources, Santangelo said in a statement, adding those factors make “it a great place for us to continue to grow our business.”

Santangelo, an advisor with 30 years of experience, worked at Merrill Lynch for a decade and has past experience at UBS and Piper Jaffray, among other brokerages, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Ghaemi and Manierre have five and six years of industry experience, respectively.

In October, a former Merrill Lynch team that managed $405 million joined RBC in Reno, Nevada. The group is comprised of advisors Paul Comcowich, David Iubelt, Clifford Iubelt, and Robin Brunson. Senior Registered Client Associate Kimberlie Jones also moved with the team.

Comcowich and Iubelt have more than two decades of industry experience, each. Brunson has been in the business for eight years.

Merrill’s losses have not dented its headcount, which the firm recently reported stood at approximately 14,700 for the third quarter. It was flat year-over-year.

A spokeswoman was unavailable for immediate comment.

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