Slideshow Biggest recruiting moves in 2017

Published
  • December 12 2017, 4:32pm EST

It was a big year for recruiting moves. Nearly two dozen mega teams ― those managing $1 billion or more in client assets ― switched employers in 2017, according to hiring announcements.

That's double the figure for 2016, though about on par with 2015.

The moves this year represented more than $43 billion in client assets and reflect the upheaval transforming the recruiting landscape. Three of the wirehouses have cut back on hiring efforts. Meanwhile, UBS and Morgan Stanley have exited the Broker Protocol ― which spurred a raft of advisor departures. Though nearly all of the mega teams left wirehouses, almost none joined another wirehouse. Instead, they formed independent firms or joined smaller regional brokerages, which have been on a recruiting tear this year.

RBC, Baird, Dynasty Financial Partners and J.P. Morgan Securities, a small boutique wealth management unit, were among the big winners.

Though these and other firms are ending the year on a strong note, 2017 did not start out promising, according to recruiters.

Uncertainty around the fiduciary rule and the Trump administration's intentions with regard to the controversial regulation spurred many advisors to stay in a holding pattern.

"People were really understandably leery about joining a firm and not knowing what their policy on retirement accounts would be because that was kind of a work in progress," Mark Elzweig, a recruiter and On Wall Street contributor, says.

The breakaway advisor movement also picked up steam this year, in part because of the success past breakaways have had.

"We've seen teams that are going independent now are larger than they ever were before," says recruiter Louis Diamond. "It's partly because of the validation of other groups that have done it, the advancement of platforms and introduction of service providers in the space like Dynasty and Hightower that have enabled it to be so."

Although the Broker Protocol's future may be in doubt, advisor moves will likely continue because the reasons brokers want to switch firms haven't changed, according to industry insiders.

Scroll through to see where the industry's biggest teams went in 2017.

$8.4B breakaway team leaves UBS

Dynasty Financial Partners added another breakaway firm to its expanding roster, but the transition came with extra baggage.

Procyon Partners, formerly a team known as the FDG Group while at UBS, launched in June and operates under two separate RIAs — one for its institutional investment consulting practice and the other for its personal wealth management group.

At UBS the Procyon team managed over $8 billion in institutional assets and over $400 million in private wealth assets, generating approximately $6 million in annual revenue, according to a spokeswoman.

UBS filed a lawsuit for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the Shelton, Connecticut-based firm. The lawsuit alleged that Procyon's founding partners violated the Protocol for Broker Recruiting by "aggressively soliciting" UBS clients to leave the firm and do business with Procyon.
In July, a federal judge ruled that while Phil Fiore and the three other founders of Procyon Partners may have violated their non-solicitation agreements, the grievances did not merit a restraining order.

Connecticut District Judge Victor Bolden denied UBS’ motion, citing no possible “irreparable harm” that would result without a court order.

“The court’s sweeping decision is a welcome development and the principals of Procyon look forward to continuing to focus on the growth of Procyon Partners,” a spokeswoman for the firm said in a statement.

Content Continues Below


$4.5B team goes indie

A San Francisco-based team left Merrill Lynch to open its own RIA. The team, which includes Roger A. Carter and Josh Carter, now operate as Sepio Capital.

The Carters managed approximately $4.5 billion in 2016, according to Barron’s list of top-ranked advisors in California. They could not be reached for additional comment on their new firm, which they opened in May.

Roger Carter has been in the business for nearly 40 years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He had been with Merrill Lynch since 2008, having previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Josh Carter got his start in the business at Goldman Sachs in 2003.

$4B advisor forms RIA

A desire for greater flexibility and fewer conflicts of interests spurred advisor Phil Shaffer to leave Morgan Stanley and form his own RIA, Halite Partners in June.

"We wanted to launch a firm where we could offer investment excellence without conflicts of interest. In our opinion, it wasn't possible to do that in a wirehouse setting," says Shaffer, whose former team previously oversaw approximately $4 billion in assets.

Shaffer has been in the business for 37 years. He got his start at E.F. Hutton in 1980 and has been with Morgan Stanley and predecessor firm Smith Barney since 1993, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

While at Morgan Stanley, his practice largely consisted of institutional clients. Now, Shaffer says he is eyeing new growth opportunities among ultrahigh-net-worth clients, who he believes can benefit from his team's institutional expertise.

"We're not walking away from the institutional market. We'll stay there. But we'll have an additional focus," he says.

Halite is based in Columbus, has an office in West Palm Beach, Florida, and plans to open a third location in Naples. His 11-member team, which includes partners Norm Cook and Lee Caleshu, does not include everyone that worked with him while he was at Morgan, Shaffer says.

$3.5B team defects to Raymond James

In June, Raymond James landed a UBS group that oversaw $3.5 billion in institutional and retail assets.

Raymond James' new 10-person team deals, in part, with institutional investments, helping to prop up the team’s overall assets under management, according to a company spokesperson. About a third of the assets the advisers oversaw were retail, and approximately two-thirds were institutional.

The new hires also further the company’s push into the Western U.S. and becomes the second financial planning group to join the Honolulu office of Raymond James' employee channel.

Led by managing director Ronald Kikawa, the group generated more than $5 million in annual fees and commissions while at UBS, according to Raymond James.

"We have many institutional clients including foundations, endowments and a significant number of Taft-Hartley Joint Trusteed plans," Kikawa said, "so being able to advise them and keep the managers they trusted was very important to us."

Kikawa joined UBS in Honolulu in 2007, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Previously, Kikawa worked with Smith Barney and has 40 years of industry experience.

The team also includes advisers Karen K.Y. Yasukawa, Gregg Matsuura, Wesley K. Yamamoto, Susanne M. Millard, and Paul Yamashita.

Content Continues Below


$3.3B team signs on with Merrill Lynch

A $3.3 billion group left UBS to join Merrill Lynch's Chicago office in early June, shortly after Merrill told its managers that by the end of May it would cut back on hiring experienced advisers and focus on recruiting younger ones with three to eight years of industry experience.

Merrill's new team includes F. Michael Covey, Tom Kane and Mark Wiktor, who have been working together for more than a decade. They moved their practice from Lehman Brothers to UBS in 2007.

Wiktor, who is the most experienced, worked at Lehman for 23 years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Covey and Kane have 17 and 13 years of experience, respectively.

$3B Morgan Stanley team joins J.P. Morgan Securities as wirehouse leaves Broker Protocol

Following Morgan Stanley's abrupt announcement that it would exit the Broker Protocol in November, a New York-based team led by Colleen O'Callaghan and Norm Thomas left for J.P. Morgan Securities. The group managed over $3 billion in client assets while at the wirehouse, a J.P. Morgan spokeswoman confirms.

O'Callaghan and Thomas had been with Morgan Stanley since 2008; they previously worked at Lehman Brothers. She has 17 years of experience while Thomas has 31.

$1.6B team signs on with J.P. Morgan Securities

J.P. Morgan Securities enticed away a team overseeing $1.6 billion in assets from Morgan Stanley, a spokeswoman confirmed.

The team, led by advisor Robert Gilman, joined the firm's New York office. They report to Mike Lee, regional manager.

Gilman cited the firm's brand, platform and senior management as reasons for making the move.

Gilman, an industry veteran of 24 years, had been with Morgan Stanley since 2007, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He previously worked at UBS.

There were nine members of his team, according to the group's profile on Morgan Stanley's website, which was still available at the time of publication.

Content Continues Below


Wells Fargo loses $1.5B team to Jefferies

Jefferies' wealth management unit lured away a Wells Fargo team that oversaw $1.5 billion in assets in May, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Miami-based group, which specializes in serving high-net-worth and ultrawealthy clients from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, generated $7.3 million in annual revenue, the person says.

A spokesman for the company confirmed the new hires joined, but declined to comment further.

Jefferies’ new recruits include Marcelo Poliak, Pablo Gherardi, Guillermo Guerra and Nicholas Coubrough. Poliak, Gherardi and Guerra had been with Wells Fargo for more than a decade, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Coubrough joined the wirehouse from Merrill Lynch in 2015.

Ernesto de la Fe oversees Jefferies' international wealth management unit for the Americas region. He joined the firm two years ago from Morgan Stanley, and is also based in Miami.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to comment on the advisers' departure.

J.P. Morgan Securities lands $1.2B team

J.P. Morgan Securities picked up a $1.2 billion mega team from Morgan Stanley in November, the boutique firm confirmed.

Boston-based advisors Patrick Corbett, Bob Mason, and Dan Warren made the move after Morgan Stanley said it would exit the Broker Protocol.

Senior advisor Mason boasts 24 years of experience, Corbett has 20 and Warren has 11, per FINRA BrokerCheck records. All three advisors spent a year at Citigroup and Bear Stearns, respectively, before joining the wirehouse.

Ahead of UBS protocol exit, $1.2B team jumps to J.P. Morgan Securities

A team that oversaw $1.2 billion at UBS left to join J.P. Morgan Securities in late November ― squeaking in their move just prior to UBS's planned exit from the Broker Protocol on Dec. 1.

The six-member group, led by Kurt Sylvia, joined J.P. Morgan Securities in Palm Beach, Florida, a company spokeswoman confirmed. Sylvia said they made the move in part because of J.P. Morgan's platform and resources.

Sylvia, an industry veteran of 24 years, had been with UBS since 2008, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Content Continues Below


$1.1B wirehouse team leaps to J.P. Morgan Securities

J.P. Morgan Securities picked up a $1.1 billion mega team from Morgan Stanley in November, the boutique firm confirmed.

Boston-based wealth managers Frank Botta, Dan McCarron and Mike Coyne all boast more than two decades of experience, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Prior to their nine years at Morgan Stanley, all three wirehouses worked for Bear Stearns. Like other teams, the advisors switched employers in the wake of Morgan Stanley's planned Broker Protocol exit.

Baird reels in $1B team from Wells Fargo

Baird hired a team that managed $1 billion in client assets from Wells Fargo in November, a company spokeswoman said.

Margaret R. Price, Sarah K. Springer, and Grant F. Shearer now operate from Baird's new office in Anchorage, Alaska. It's the regional brokerage firm's first wealth management office in the “Last Frontier.”

Veteran advisor Price has over 34 years of experience, per FINRA Brokercheck records. Shearer and Springer have 19 and 14 years of experience, respectively.

Billion-dollar bye-bye: Mega adviser exits Goldman to form RIA

An adviser who oversaw $1 billion at Goldman Sachs left the bank to launch his own RIA in June with backing from Dynasty Financial Partners.

David Darby, a 21-year veteran of Goldman Sachs. He is making the move to independence with Melissa Gray, director of client services and who also previously worked at the bank. The team operates as DG Wealth Partners from an office in Palm Beach, Florida.

Darby said he made the move in part to "have unfettered access to investment opportunities, client servicing technologies, and wealth management resources." The partnership with Dynasty will enable them to serve as an outsourced family office for their wealthy clients, he said in a statement.

His new firm has chosen Schwab Advisor Services as its primary custodian for client assets. Dynasty also provides analytics and operational support to the young firm.

Content Continues Below


$1B Merrill private banking team goes indie with Dynasty

A Merrill Lynch team from the firm’s elite ultrahigh net-worth unit bolted to launch its own firm on the Dynasty Financial Partners platform in July.

Matthew Celenza, two other longtime team members with Merrill’s Private Banking & Investment Group, and a fourth colleague have opened Boulevard Family Wealth in Beverly Hills, California, according to Dynasty. The team had managed $1 billion in client assets at Merrill.

A Merrill spokeswoman declined to comment on the departures by Celenza, fellow advisers Shannon McLaughlin and Andrea Shieh, and Andrew Aiello, the new indie firm’s head of insurance strategies.

Celenza, the team’s leader, spent six years at Merrill, according to SEC filings. Celenza’s 20-year career also includes tenures at Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney.

Like him, McLaughlin spent six years at Merrill’s Beverly Hills branch following four months at Barclays and roughly four years at Morgan Stanley. Shieh took the same path, and the trio left Smith Barney back in 2009 on the same date as well, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Aiello had worked in Merrill’s UHNW Solutions Department before joining the new firm. Dynasty provides TAMP services along with operational and back office support to Boulevard, according to the new firm’s ADV form. Boulevard does not receive any fees paid to Dynasty or third parties on its platform.

The partnership gives the new firm “a greatly expanded selection of investment capabilities, lending platforms, sophisticated insurance products, planning resources, capital market solutions, and alternative manager opportunities,” Celenza said in a statement.

UBS loses $1B team to breakaway startup

FallLine Securities helped ex-UBS advisers Douglas John and Bryn Basiardanes-Talkington set up an independent practice in Dallas in June. John previously advised on $1 billion of client assets, according to a spokesman. Talkington served as a regional director at UBS Asset Management.

FallLine is the latest firm to service wirehouse breakaways, joining the ranks of Dynasty, HighTower and Focus Financial among others. The Darien, Connecticut-based firm is attempting to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace by focusing exclusively on advisers serving the superrich.

HighTower grabs $1B Wells Fargo team

HighTower started off the 2017 recruiting year with a bang in January, picking up a $1 billion Wells Fargo team that went independent.

The team, Fortress Wealth Planning in Jacksonville, Florida, is comprised of Founding Partners Michael Skowfoe, Eileen Ortega, Jay Rolfe and Jim Williams.

"Independence was the only option we considered," Skowfoe says.

He first heard about HighTower about two years ago, and the team, after doing its due diligence recently, was attracted to the firm's culture and platform, Skowfoe says.

In addition, the team wanted to affiliate with a fiduciary-friendly firm, and HighTower fit the bill, he adds. "That was one of the most important decisions."

Skowfoe had been with Wells Fargo for 16 years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. The team serves clients primarily in Florida who are entrepreneurs, business owners and families. He said their emphasis is on planning.

"That's the crux of our mission statement. It's very important to us. Planning, planning and planning – we really can't stress that enough," he says.

Content Continues Below


HighTower recruits $1B wirehouse team

In February, two advisers left Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley to form an independent practice with HighTower, a spokeswoman said.

The advisers previously oversaw $1 billion in client assets, per the spokeswoman.

The firm's newest hires operate as Cognetic Capital Advisors in HighTower's New York office.

The team consists of CEO Joel Talish, who left Wells Fargo, and managing director John Buffa, who departed from Morgan Stanley.

The two advisers are industry veterans of about 20 years each, and both did stints at Smith Barney. Talish started at Smith Barney in 1998 and left for Wells Fargo in 2006, according to FINRA BrokerCheck. Buffa stayed with the firm through its merger with Morgan Stanley.

Spokeswomen for Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley declined to comment on the departure.

$1B team quits Morgan Stanley for J.P. Morgan Securities

In April, J.P. Morgan Securities netted its first big recruiting grab under its new leader: a $1 billion team from Morgan Stanley, a spokeswoman for the bank acknowledged.

The new hires came a month after the elite brokerage unit, which serves ultrawealthy clients, tapped Chris Harvey to serve as CEO, replacing Greg Quental who retired.

The team consists of brothers Jay and Neil Canell as well as Justin Dembo. The group joined J.P. Morgan Securities' office in New York. They report to Mike Lee, regional director.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Canell said they made the move in part because they believed J.P. Morgan would enable them to offer "more personalized service and a wider range of banking services" to their clients.

The elite unit "offers us direct access to extensive asset management resources and industry ranked research capabilities," Canell said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley was not immediately available for comment on their departure.

The team had been at the wirehouse and its predecessor firm Smith Barney since 2006, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. The group was previously affiliated UBS.

All three advisers started their careers at Lehman Brothers; the Canell brothers in 1993, and Dembo in 1994.

Merrill Lynch recruits $1B adviser

In May, Merrill Lynch recruited an adviser who previously oversaw $1 billion in client assets, a spokeswoman said.

Fernando Nicolau, who was previously with JP Morgan Private Bank, now operates from a Merrill Lynch office in Miami. Nicolau will work with Merrill Lynch advisers Andre Mendes and Pedro Paulo Silva. They form the firm's largest Brazil team serving wealthy Latin American clients.

"His years of experience working in the Latin American market make him the right fit for our Brazil client segment," Andres de Corral, market executive, said in a statement.

Content Continues Below


Merrill Lynch nabs $1B team from UBS

In June, Merrill Lynch nabbed a $1 billion team from UBS.

Advisers Joseph Gabriele and Paul Vasady-Kovacs joined Merrill Lynch’s New York office, the firm said. While at UBS, they generated $7 million in annual revenue, according to Merrill.

Gabriele, who was also once the CEO of investment firm Gabriele, Hueglin & Cashman, has been working in the finance industry for more than 45 years. For the last 10 years, he has been working at UBS. More than once he was named a top adviser by Barron’s and The Financial Times, a spokeswoman said.

He spent 17 years of his career working at a Boston-based independent investment bank and brokerage firm, Tucker Anthony, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Vasady-Kovacs has been working at UBS for 10 years. Before UBS, he worked at RBC for 5 years, FINRA BrokerCheck records show. He has been featured in On Wall Street’s Top 40 Advisers Under 40 ranking three times.

RBC grabs $1B Morgan Stanley team, opens new office

RBC grabbed a top advisory team overseeing $1 billion in ultrahigh-net-worth assets in September.

The Gibraltar Group, founded by 36-year veteran Doug Sharon, will open a new office in Miami, according to RBC. Sharon is joined by the group’s co-founder, Carey Bosch, and their client-service team.
Located in Miami’s financial district, the new office will focus on high-net-worth clients, says RBC.

Sharon spent 20 years at Bear Stearns and was executive director of the firm’s Boston office for 10 years, according to RBC. Earlier, he worked with a handful of smaller firms, beginning with Gilford Securities in 1981, per FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Bosch began his career with Bear Stearns before jumping to Morgan Stanley in 2008, per BrokerCheck.
Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Sharon says his team made the jump to an independent broker dealer for safety and stability.
“[RBC] offers all of the critical ingredients of a top-tier firm — a solid balance sheet, leading capital markets capabilities, and a supportive and responsive management team,” Sharon says in a statement, adding that the security of his clients’ assets will be a “non-issue.”