Three advisers who oversaw $500 million have joined Steward Partners, an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James, the company said.

Carl Gravina, Liana Poodiack, and Joshua Houle opened a new office for Steward Partners — the firm's 8th — in Keene, New Hampshire.

Carl Gravina was previously with Wells Fargo.
Former Wells Fargo adviser Carl Gravina joined Steward Partners, an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James.

Gravina and Poodiack left Wells Fargo while Houle departed Edward Jones. They previously generated a combined $3 million in annual revenue, according to Steward Partners.

The move comes a week after the Department of Labor issued new guidance on the fiduciary rule that targeted back-end awards common in the recruiting deals of many large firms, particularly the wirehouses. The department said that such awards can create conflicts of interest between advisers and clients.

UBS and Morgan Stanley are both dropping back-end comp from their recruiting deals. Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo have yet to unveil their plans for complying with the new regulation.

Jim Gold, CEO of Steward Partners, says his firm is well prepared for the changing regulatory environment, noting several changes such as the fact that Steward Partners established an RIA earlier this yes.

The Washington-based firm has been an active recruiter, particularly of wirehouse teams. Steward Partners says it's picked up 40 advisers with almost $35 million in production and more than $4.6 billion in AUM since its founding in November 2013.

Gold, who was previously an executive director at Morgan Stanley, says his firm will keep up its recruiting momentum, and may even benefit from changes in recruiting deals at other firms.

"I think that with the deals changing and our ability to offer an RIA capacity is going to be a game changer for Steward," Gold says.

He adds: "We've had a big 2016; we're going to have an even bigger 2017."

Slideshow
Advisers on the move: Morgan advisers with over $2B jump to Merrill
Plus, advisers with $450M in combined AUM join Benjamin Edwards.

'A CHANGE WAS IN ORDER'

A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo was not immediately available to comment on the departures. An Edward Jones spokesman declined to comment.

For his part, Gravina says leaving wasn't easy.

"I've been in the industry 15 years. I've never made a move before," he says.

Gravina joined A.G. Edwards in 2001, and stayed through that firm's acquisition by Wells Fargo, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He says part of the appeal of joining Steward Partners was the firm's culture.

Poodiack, who had been Wells Fargo and its predecessor firms since 1999, says they spent about a year-and-a-half evaluating the choices out there, including other wirehouses.

"We did a lot of due diligence. We looked at the independent channel, but we weren't sure that we wanted to deal with some of the issues that come with that, such as the back office stuff. We ultimately felt that Steward Partners offered us the best combination," she says.

Among Houle's considerations: Finding a firm he felt is prepared to navigate the evolving regulatory environment.

"I thought about how can I improve the client situation, and I thought that as we move to a more level fee-based world under fiduciary… well my firm only had a few options available," he says.

Houle, who started his advisory career at Edward Jones in 201, says he found Raymond James' product offering to be "robust."

"I felt that in order for me to serve best my clients that a change was in order," says Houle, who also cited Steward Partner's culture as being appealing.

In addition to switching platforms, Houle will also being changing office environments as Edward Jones typically operates offices consisting of just one adviser.

"As much I liked being king of the castle in my own office, it can be lonely. I'm looking forward to having colleagues to bounce ideas off and to also just have fun being with one another," he says.

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