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Merrill Lynch lands $3.3B team, not slowing down ― yet

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Merrill Lynch has landed three multi-billion-dollar teams in the last two weeks. The firm's latest grab? A $3.3 billion group that left UBS to join Merrill's Chicago office.

These big catches come after the Merrill told its managers that by the end of May it would cut back on hiring experienced advisers and focus on recruiting younger ones with three to eight years of industry experience.

Now that the deadline has past, recruiter Bill Willis believes Merrill as well as rival firm Morgan Stanley, which also has plans to slash recruiting efforts, will be announcing more hires in the coming months as branch managers scramble to get recruits' deals signed at the last minute.

"Whenever there is a deadline, there is a flurry of hires," Willis says.

The advisers oversaw nearly $900 million in combined AUM, and moved to Morgan Stanley, Raymond James and HighTower.
April 5

Advisers looking to switch firms tend to either move immediately or wait until hiring picks back up, he said.

Merrill's new team includes F. Michael Covey, Tom Kane and Mark Wiktor, who have been working together for more than a decade. They moved their practice from Lehman Brothers to UBS in 2007. Wiktor, who is the most experienced, worked at Lehman for 23 years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Covey and Kane have 17 and 13 years of experience, respectively.

A spokeswoman from UBS declined to comment on the team's departure.

Companies might want to hold back on hiring until they know what the effect the ruling will have on them. Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley may have announced recruiting cutbacks in part to see what effects the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule has on their business model, Willis says.

On Wall Street honors wealth management's elite young producers. See which advisors from your firm made the cut.
January 12

"Once the dust settles, hiring should pick back up," he says.

Recruiter Mindy Diamond says the string of recent hires is not surprising.

"No matter how much a company says they are retrenching, they will hire a team that looks like this," she says.

Among Merrill's big hires recently, two teams had members that were named to On Wall Street's Top 40 Advisers Under 40. Kane has been on the top 40 ranking every year since 2009 until last year when he ranked no. 17.

Merrill Lynch's previous large grab was a $1 billion that joined in New York. That group, comprised of Joseph Gabriele and Paul Vasady-Kovacs, also left UBS.

Diamond also anticipates that broker movement will continue because many advisers want more freedom and flexibility, and they are not finding it at the biggest firms.

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