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UBS suffers mega loss as $7.5B team bolts for RBC

A UBS team overseeing $7.5 billion in client assets quit to open a new branch for RBC, making it one of the biggest wirehouse departures and one of the biggest grabs for a regional brokerage firm in recent years.

Like other regional BDs, RBC has been courting wirehouse talent. Advisors moving to these smaller firms have cited their corporate cultures and access to management as reasons to make the transition.

RBC’s most recent win caps off an aggressive recruiting year during which it poached a number of wirehouse teams, primarily from Merrill Lynch. But the firm’s hiring of the UBS team led by advisors Roger Stephens and Daniel Rothenberg eclipses all of its previous hires this year by several magnitudes. For example, the roughly two dozen ex-Merrill brokers RBC has recruited since August manage a collective $2.9 billion, according to hiring announcements.

“RBC is a substantial firm,” says Bill Willis, a recruiter based in Palos Verdes Estates, California. “I wouldn’t marginalize them in any fashion.”

Willis points to the firm’s backing by Royal Bank of Canada, one of the largest banks in that nation, and its ownership of City National, a bank based in Los Angeles that caters to wealthy clients, particularly those who work in Hollywood.

Stephens and Rothenberg’s team will operate from a new RBC office in downtown L.A. at City National Plaza; RBC acquired City National in 2016. Stephens and Rothenberg cited that acquisition and RBC’s small size (it has about 1,900 advisors) as reasons they made the switch.

“We are excited to come to a firm that has a smaller, more focused group of people where we feel we can really make a difference,” Rothenberg said in a statement. “RBC has a boutique feel across the board, which gives us the flexibility to run our business the way we want.”

Stephens, an advisor of 28 years, had been with UBS since 2010, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He started his career at Associated Securities in 1991, moved to UBS 2000 and returned to the firm after a stint at Morgan Stanley.

Rothenberg started his career at Morgan Stanley in 2006, and moved with Stephens to UBS. He’s also been featured in On Wall Street’s Top 40 Advisors Under 40, coming in at No. 13 in 2019.

RBC logo is reflected on a surface in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, May 19, 2017 Bloomberg News

RBC said that the team’s addition fills out its presence in California, where it has hired 35 advisors in the past two years. The regional BD recently opened a Marin County branch to expand its presence in Northern California.

UBS’ loss isn’t the biggest advisor departure of the year. In June, a group of advisors who oversaw $17 billion quit First Republic to go independent.

UBS reduced its recruiting efforts in 2016, a move mirrored by Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Still, the wirehouse selectively hires and pulls in some sizable recruits, including a former Goldman Sachs team that managed $6.6 billion in client assets and joined UBS in April. It’s also added $1.8 billion in new talent recently and filled out its management ranks in places such as Pasadena, Manhattan Beach and Century City.

A UBS spokesman declined to comment on the departure of Stephens and Rothenberg, who will be joined by senior business associate Michelle Hadi, senior financial associate Grace Kim, senior registered client associate Robin Kim, and investment associate Akiva Glazerson.

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