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With $400M new hires, Steward Partners opens 12th office

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Steward Partners furthered its expansion efforts, opening its 12th office and hiring four new advisors who collectively managed more than $400 million in client assets.

The independent firm, which is affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services, has been on a recruiting tear this year. The firm has opened several new offices and picking up 27 new wealth managers representing $3 billion in recruited assets, according to Steward Partners.

The newest hires ― former Wells Fargo advisors Robert Baker, Edmund Iannaccone, Paul Sarama and Theodore Larson ― include two former radio hosts and a veteran of 50 years' experience. They're based in Paramus, New Jersey.

They also represent the latest advisors to leave the wirehouse channel. Regional and independent firms have been picking up a steady stream of top talent from the big four in recent years, enticing them over with promises of less bureaucracy and more broker-friendly cultures.

"I think you'll see more advisors find a Steward Partners type model and latch onto it," Baker says.

Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, may staunch its losses with its exit from the Broker Protocol, an industry accord that permitted departing advisors to take certain client contact information with them. The wirehouse has said it expects advisors who leave to respect non-solicitation agreements.

But even if Morgan Stanley tries to raise new hurdles to brokers leaving, many industry insiders expect that departures won't come to a screeching stop.

The wirehouses have lost teams overseeing more than $12 billion in client assets over the past month, according to recent hiring announcements.
November 3

Indeed, there was ample recruiting between firms before the protocol was signed in 2004, notes Steward Partners CEO Jim Gold, who once served as a manager at Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley.

"There may be a different set of rules, but we'll make sure we understand them and follow them," Gold says.

Steward Partners' newest advisors say they were drawn to the firm in part because of its partnership model and place within the independent channel.

"It became clear to us that we needed to be in an independent model, but we didn't want to be fully independent," Baker says.

His partner Iannaccone puts it more bluntly.

"Steward takes care of all the stuff I don't want to be saddled with as a financial advisor," says Iannaccone, noting he and his partners want to be free to focus on serving their clients.

Iannaccone and Baker have been working together since 2000, when they were with UBS. For about eight years, they also had a half-hour radio show about markets and investing that aired on a local New Jersey station.

"We did 30 minutes pure comedy," Iannaccone says jokingly.

Sarama's first experience with Baker and Iannaccone was through their radio program. Sarama, a former Marine, joined UBS's training program in 2007; Baker and Iannaccone were the first people he met when he was assigned to the firm's Paramus office.

"My first day, my first experience ― and I was coming from a military background ― was sitting in a conference room as Rob and Ed went on the air," he says.

The trio later formed a team, and in 2010 moved to Wells Fargo, where they met Larson.

The move to Steward Partners was Larson's first such change in his 50-year career. He's essentially worked at the same office, though the company's name has changed due to mergers and acquisitions.

"It went from Bache to Prudential Securities to Wachovia to Wells Fargo," says Larson, 73, who started his career in 1966.

Though Larson notes many of his contemporaries have made such moves, he says he never seriously considered switching firms before.

"I never, quite frankly, found anything that was such a step up that I could put myself and my clients through the rigmarole of changing," he says.

Why make a move now? He cited similar reasons as his new Steward Partners colleagues.

"I liked the middle road of Steward, where I can get all the support I possibly need, but I am not a worker bee at a wirehouse," Larson says.

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