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RBC wins big with $1.8B team from Merrill Lynch

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RBC landed another big one.

The firm enticed away a $1.8 billion team from Merrill Lynch, building on a series of large hires.

Like other regional BDs, RBC has been expanding its ranks by pursuing an aggressive recruiting strategy. Its biggest hire last year was a team managing $7.5 billion at UBS. The firm has had particular success in recent months picking off top teams from Merrill Lynch. Just last week, it hired a $426 million from Merrill in Baltimore.

To be sure, RBC isn’t alone in its acquisition spree as regional BDs have enjoyed particular advantages. To start, they face less competition than they used to. UBS, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch have all cut hiring efforts in recent years. UBS and Morgan Stanley have also left the Broker Protocol, an industry agreement that facilitates advisor moves between firms.

Regional firms also benefited from wirehouses’ perceived workplace culture shifts and compensation changes, according to Frank LaRosa, a recruiter.

Wirehouse advisors are leaving “because of a cultural disconnect between what the firm is there to do and what advisors are there to do,” says LaRosa, who has helped move advisors to regional BDs, including RBC.

He points to the bigger bureaucratic structures at wirehouses. That can be off-putting for some advisors, particularly those who started their careers at smaller firms that later were merged into bigger corporations.

More often than not, wirehouses were on the losing side of these moves.
December 30

“Whether it’s Stifel, RBC, Janney, or Raymond James, it’s more geared toward what can they do to help the advisors grow. That resonates. And I think there is a lot of runway for advisors who don’t want to go independent or aren’t ready yet to do it,” LaRosa says.

Michael Busick, a member of the $1.8 billion former Merrill team, echoed that sentiment in a statement, pointing to what he said is RBC’s “commitment to a client-first and advisor-centric culture” as a reason the group made the move.

Perspectives like that have helped boost headcount at regional BDs. For example, Raymond James reported its advisor ranks increased 245 year-over-year to reach 8,060 as of Dec. 31. Stifel said it added a net 70 advisors to reach 2,222.

RBC does not announce all its hires, but of those it did, the firm picked up 54 advisors with about $13 billion in AUM in 2019. That compares to 73 advisors with $12 billion in AUM for 2018, according to the firm’s hiring announcements.

RBC fields a brokerage force totaling more than 2,000 financial advisors. It has $389 billion in total client assets in 170 locations in 42 states, according to the firm.

The firm’s 2019 hires had a median AUM of $246 million — that’s 45% higher than the median AUM of $170 million among all regional BDs in 2019, according to an analysis of hiring announcements.

To house its growing workforces, regional BDs have also been adding new offices, which in turn help attract new hires.

RBC’s latest additions joined a new branch in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that was opened late last year, according to the company. In addition to Busick, the 16-person team is comprised of advisors Robert Cummings, Richard Vezina, David Tilkens, Mark Capomaccio, Robert Pratel, Trent Nelson, Janalee Busick, Jacob Cummings, Jordan Kawlewski and Trevor Skaggs. The group also has five client associates: Polly Roeser, Jamie Englebert, Carolyn Calaway, Jill Perock, and Terry Rentmeester.

Among RBC’s other recent hires are Gounaris Bachmann Group, which managed $426 million in client assets at Merrill Lynch. The Baltimore-based team is comprised of advisors Daniel Gounaris and Daniel Bachmann, as well as senior registered client associate Denise Fiamingo and client associate Melinda Wise.

“After careful thought and consideration, we made the decision to join RBC Wealth Management because of its smaller-firm culture, coupled with access to the global resources of RBC,” Gounaris said in a statement.

He was a long-time Merrill advisor, having started his career at the wirehouse 28 years ago, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Bachmann joined him at Merrill in 2000.

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