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$500M ex-Merrill Lynch team chooses hybrid Sanctuary

Ed Christiansen, Shawna Partain, and Chris Kenny of Muirwood Private Wealth
Ed Christiansen, Shawna Partain, and Chris Kenny of Muirwood Private Wealth
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Last summer, Merrill Lynch advisors Ed Christiansen and Chris Kenny knew it was time for a change.

“We were looking at controlling the long-term client experience for us and our clients,” says Kenny. “When we retire, we don't want those relationships to just be divided out [at a wirehouse].”

The team, Muirwood Private Wealth, which manages $500 million in client assets, recently joined Sanctuary Wealth Management, according to a statement by the firm.

The two men began their partnership at Wells Fargo in 2000. Five years later, they moved to Merrill Lynch, where they remained for 14 years.

In searching for a new home, “We did a lot of due diligence,” says Kenny. “We looked at other wirehouses, more boutique BDs and even considered going independent.”

“In the end, we didn’t want to make another lateral move to a wirehouse, so we decided on a hybrid model,” explains Christiansen. The move will allow the team to use more collaborative technology and eliminate corporate discractions, he says. Both men cite Sanctuary’s technology, administrative support and compliance as key reasons for the move.

“It frees us up to do what we’re best at — client interactions,” Christiansen says.

"We're excited to add Muirwood Private Wealth to our ever-growing network of elite, client-focused advisors," said Jim Dickson, CEO and founder of Indianapolis-based Sanctuary Wealth, in a statement. "It has been our mission from day one to liberate advisors across the country who are frustrated by the constraints of the wirehouse environment.”

Muirwood is the second team to join Sanctuary in June, according to the firm. Wigand Integrated Wealth is also led by a pair of former Merrill Lynch advisors.

Muirwood, based in Walnut Creek, California, serves a wide range of clients in all phases of financial life. It is named for naturalist John Muir, the namesake of the Muir Woods. “He left his footprint all over California,” says Kenny. “We wanted something reminiscent of that; something lasting.”

The firm move is one of the latest made amid the economic and workplace changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Kenny and Christiansen are excited about their future, and say they are hearing the same optimism from their clients.

“This is not uncommon,” says Mark Elzweig, president of Mark Elzweig Company, which specializes in advisor recruiting. “While many advisors hunkered down at the start of the pandemic, many are now finding it a good time to move.”

A few factors make such moves appealing in this environment, Elzweig says. Prospective advisors are easier to connect with since many of them are working from home. Due diligence can be done online and Zoom meetings have replaced the need to get on an airplane.

Another help is that once advisors decide to move, it is easier to connect with clients and initiate transfers.

“The word is out,” Elzweig says. “If you want to move during the pandemic, that code has been cracked.”

Kenny has 31 years of industry experience, according to FINRA BrokerCheck, while Christiansen has 25. The team also includes client services manager Shawna Shelvin Partain, who has 19 years of experience.

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