Chip Munn's team is on something of a growth tear.
Fourteen months ago, he and two partners, Scott Mitchell and Lewis Butler, formed Signature Wealth Group at Raymond James with a goal to build a bigger operation. The trio had joined the independent broker-dealer the prior year from Hilliard Lyons, where they managed about $280 million. Today, Signature oversees $800 million in client assets, having just added another team to the practice, and Munn's group has plans to bring on more talent.
“Our business in the advisor space — just like in the retail client space — is a relationship business,” says Munn, a managing partner at Signature. Munn was featured in On Wall Street’s 2015 Top 10 Regional Advisors Under 40.
With its latest addition, Signature Wealth Group, which is affiliated with Raymond James, has five offices in North and South Carolina.
The group's trajectory is similar to that of other former employee brokers turned independent advisors. Steward Partners, another Raymond James-affiliated firm founded by former wirehouse managers, has added several dozen advisors in recent years and grown to 15 offices, primarily located in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
There's been a steady migration of talent from wirehouses and other employee brokerage firms to the independent space. In 2017, financial advisors overseeing approximately $40 billion in client assets left employee brokerages for the independent channel, according to data collected by Financial Planning.
Signature Wealth Group intends to ride that breakaway wave.
“Right now, we are currently having discussions with advisors at both wirehouses and regional BDs and anticipate adding multiple locations later this year,” Munn says. “Our principal footprint is in the Carolinas and the border states, but we have also had preliminary conversations as far as Texas, Ohio and Illinois. We’re finding that the idea of a flexible business model with access to scale is appealing to growth minded advisors, particularly given that we have institutionalized the succession planning process.”
Signature's most recent pickup, completed in March, was Alliance Wealth Partners, a business with clients that are primarily high-net-worth, first-generation entrepreneurs. The combination gives Signature’s planners “an added layer of focus in that area,” says Munn.
Alliance Wealth Partners’ principals are Beau Shuler, a 44-year industry veteran, Steve Ford, who has been in the wealth management space since 2002, and Richard Strasburger, a 17-year industry veteran, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Alliance, which had already been affiliated with Raymond James prior to the Signature partnership, has just over $283 million in AUM, according to the firm.
Signature, which is based in Florence, South Carolina, serves mainly small business owners, corporate executives and retirees, according to the firm.
Munn and his colleagues Mitchell and Butler had been with Hilliard Lyons for more than a decade before going independent, a move they made for what they say is the greater flexibility and freedom available to independent advisors.
Today, Signature Wealth Group has 12 advisors overseeing $800 million in assets.
“We partnered with Raymond James because we wanted the resources of a big firm,” Munn says. “We felt like adding these folks now gave us an additional resource as we continue to expand.”