Indie Brokers Shuffle Intramurally; Cetera, RayJay, Sanctuary Hire from Wires
In a sign that the breakaway movement to independence is still strong, two Merrill Lynch teams and one from Stifel Nicolaus have opened practices affiliated with Cetera Financial, Sanctuary Wealth Partners and Ameriprise Financial in the past few weeks.
At the same time, independent broker behemoth LPL Financial said it nabbed a veteran from Cetera while Ameriprise confirmed that its independent channel recruited a large LPL team.
Ranked by assets, the largest of the migrating teams was led by Michael Gertsema, a 27-year industry veteran who moved with his son Nicholas and a sales assistant from a Stifel branch in St. Joseph, Mo. to set up as an affiliate Carson Wealth Management’s “institutional alliance division.”
Gertsema, who was at Sifel for six years and also has worked at Raymond James, Dain Rauscher and Amerirpise predecessor IDS Financial, said he had been managing close to $180 million at Stifel.
The Carson organization, whose webpage lists just under 30 advisors, executes through Cetera Advisor Networks.Ron Carson, its high-profile founder, spent the bulk of his career as one of LPL’s top producers before shifting to Cetera in 2017. He did not respond to requests for comment on Gertsema’s unpublicized move and on terms of revenue sharing with his alliance teams. A Stifel official also did not return a call for comment.
In Virginia Beach, Merrill Lynch bid adieu on Friday to Lawrence “Larry” McDonnell, who had spent his 14-year career with the Thundering Herd and who reconnected with his brother Frank, who left Merrill last month after 17 years. Frank said he had been producing more than $825,000 on about $125 million of client assets when he left Merrill, and believed his brother’s separate practice at the firm was generating about the same.
The pair have opened an office that shares back-office services with Cape Henry Private Wealth Group, an independent firm founded in 2009 by another Merrill emigrant, Ted Tignor. Both practices use Raymond James Financial Services as their broker-dealer.
“I loved Merrill Lynch, but after Bank of America bought them it wasn’t the same,” Frank McDonnell said, citing increasingly distracting pressures to sell financial planning and centrally managed investment products. “It’s getting harder to stay on top of doing what I liked best, keeping on top of client relationships and with what’s going on in the markets.”
His brother’s decision to move was sealed by the 2019 compensation plan Merrill just introduced that shaves 3% of monthly production from brokers’ compensation credits, he said.
A less seasoned Merrill team in New York City also left the firm after two years to return to their independent roots. Paul Fegan, Jr. and David Price, certified financial planners who Price said were overseeing about $125 million for 26 families, opened Navis Wealth Management in Rye Brook, NY, on November 2. It has affiliated with Sanctuary, the new independent brokerage affiliate of Indianapolis regional David A. Noyes.
Sanctuary’s president and founder is Jim Dickson, the former head of Merrill’s Midwest region. Price said the team had not known Dickson previously, but chose the firm because of the strong compliance and operational support it was offering along with some transitional financial support.
Fegan and Price, who spent almost 15 years of their careers as registered investment advisers with multi-family office Clarfeld Financial Advisors before joining Merrill, found the bureaucracy and compliance regimens of the wirehouse constraining, Price said. He cited their inability to work with asset managers who were too small for Merrill’s managed money platform as well as the compliance irritant of having to reconcile “variances” from client goals and portfolio strategies that didn’t reflect their overall account positions. (The same issues were cited as factors for the move of the $14-million Bodner Sax team in New York last summer from Merrill to independence, sources said.)
In the intramural world of independent brokers, Ameriprise confirmed that it has lured a Tacoma, Wash.-based group led by Bill Pickles to its franchise. The 12-person “Cornerstone Financial Strategies” team, which includes six advisors in three offices, was manages about $217 million of client assets at LPL Financial.
“Ameriprise can handle our multiple office approach through one common platform,” Pickles, who began his brokerage career with Raymond James in 1994, said in a prepared statement, referring to outposts in Olympia, Wash. and Ontario, Calif.
He had been with LPL for 11 years, and has also worked at John Hancock Funds and with Lincoln Financial Adviosrs.
An LPL spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Pickles’ statement.
LPL, however, said that on October 15, it recruited 26-year industry veteran Mary Pascarella in Parsippany, NJ, to its brokerage and corporate registered investment advisor platforms. The broker, whose firm Perennial Financial Planning was overseeing about $110 million of customer assets as of the end of September, had spent her entire career with Cetera Advisors and predecessor firms, according to her BrokerCheck history.
“I have been in the business 27 years, always with the same partner,” Pascarella, a grandmother of seven, said in a prepared statement. “But I believe it’s never too late in life to seek opportunity and make it part of the fiber of who you are. Being willing to adapt is important to stay relevant and serve the needs of my clients.”
Her statement cited LPL’s new ClientWorks broker platform, which has been the subject to glitches throughout its installation, as being a “huge differentiator” in centralizing her practice’s workflow and systems.