Steward Partners recruited a former Merrill Lynch team managing $180 million in client assets to its newly opened Richmond, Virginia office. The new office is the thirteenth location in seven states and Washington D.C. for the Raymond James-affiliated firm.

Steward Partners’ expansion is gathering steam following a record year of recruiting, total client assets and revenue in 2017, the firm said. Last year Steward recruited 29 advisors with more than $25 million in revenue and $3.4 billion in managed assets from their previous firms. Comparatively, in 2016 the firm recruited 22 advisors with $19 million in revenue and $2.8 billion in managed assets.

Steward Partners believes it will be able to match its 2017 numbers by the third quarter of 2018, and exceed those numbers by the year’s end, explains Jeff Gonyo, Steward Partners’ divisional president.

The firm is looking to add about 10 to 12 advisors to the Richmond office, according to Gonyo.

“Richmond is a capital city. It’s got a very good core group of advisors there,” Gonyo says. “It’s a market we believe we can grow into. It’s not a super expensive market, but it’s a very attractive market.”

Steward is considering more locations, looking at expanding in New England, the mid-Atlantic region, New York City, Florida and Texas.

Advisors Richard Godfrey and Matthew Spradlin join Steward Partners from Merrill Lynch, working out of the firm’s newly opened 13th office located in Richmond, Virginia.
Advisors Richard Godfrey and Matthew Spradlin join Steward Partners from Merrill Lynch, working out of the firm’s newly opened 13th office located in Richmond, Virginia. Steward Partners


Richard Godfrey and Matthew Spradlin make up the Godfrey & Spradlin Group. They are opening Steward’s Richmond office with a combined 38 years of experience as wealth managers. Godfrey joined Merrill in 1993, spending 25 years with the firm, according to FINRA BrokerCheck Records. Spradlin joined Merrill in 2003, and his tenure there lasted 15 years.

The group began seriously looking to leave Merrill Lynch over a year ago, Spradlin says, adding that he feels the culture at Merrill changed following the 2008 financial crisis and the acquisition by Bank of America.

At Merrill “it felt like we shifted away a little bit in recent years from the core focus of wealth management,” Spradlin explains. “Our day-to-day interactions became more bank-like and it got away from what was core to us and [our] values.”

Merrill Lynch did not respond to a request for comment.

Spradlin and Godfrey don’t like to use the word “clients” when talking about the people they advise, and instead refer to them as “families.” They wanted to move their practice to a firm where they could maintain an intimate approach.

“When we met the folks at Steward it felt like a family, and that’s important to us,” Spradlin says. “In an industry where the markets go up and down and it can be emotional, you want someone that has your back. Families do that and we felt that immediate connection with Raymond James and Steward.”

The close-knit culture offered at Steward, coupled with the backing of the larger firm, was particularly attractive to The Godfrey & Spradlin Group. The team was also drawn to the firm’s technological offerings, which they said can be lacking at other companies.

Amanda Schiavo

Amanda Schiavo is an associate editor for Financial Planning. Follow her on Twitter at @SchiavoAmanda.