Major Merrill PBIG Team in NYC Goes Independent
(Adds response from Merrill Lynch in sixth paragraph.)
For the second time in six weeks, one of the largest-producing teams at Merrill Lynch’s Private Banking and Investment Group (PBIG) has bolted.
The Bodner Sax Group, whose namesake founders qualified in April as one of the brokerage giant’s fastest-growing large practices, opened a 15-person registered investment advisory firm on Friday in New York City called Kore Private Wealth LLC that allows them to “go even further outside the standard scope of services and solutions” than they were offering at Merrill, according to Kore’s website.
Eric Bodner, Ben Sax and their team of three other brokers and seven associates were overseeing $4.1 billion of customer assets, according to Barron’s latest rankings, and in the past 12 months generated more than $15 million of fees and commissions, according to several current and former Merrill brokers and managers. The entire group made the move from Bank of America’s midtown Manhattan headquarters to a nearby office on Madison Avenue.
The lead brokers, who joined Merrill in 2009, had a high profile among the approximately 370 high-net-worth advisors at the Bank of America-owned brokerage firm. Sax served on a PBIG advisors’ group that worked with management on policy, and Sax and Bodner recently qualified for recognition trips for expanding their roster of assets and households since last summer, as Merrill pushes for internal growth at a time when it has retreated from recruiting top brokers. The team, subsequent to the program, was managing about $5 billion of assets, a spokeswoman said.
For Merrill Wealth Management head Andy Sieg and PBIG Northeast region head Gregory McGauley, the departure deepens a production hole opened in April when Boston broker James Atwood led a 15-person team producing more than $22 million and working with $4.5 billion of client money to First Republic Private Wealth Management.
“The Private Banking & Investment Group of Merrill Lynch is strong and growing,” a Merrill spokeswoman said in an e-mail. “We continue to add private wealth advisors….Year-over-year we have added nearly 40% more new households and our inflow of client balances is more than 1.5 times that of 2017.”
First Republic, for its part, continued its aggressive recruiting of wirehouse brokers on Friday by recruiting a Wells Fargo Advisors team in Newport Beach, California led by Vincent Lovoy, Adam MacDonald, and Todd Halbrook. The team produced almost $6 million in annual revenue in the past 12 months and were overseeing about $850 million in client assets, said a person familiar with their book.
While San Francisco-based First Republic has been offering fat signing bonuses to recruit veteran advisers, Bodner and Sax say they chose independence after more than 30 years at large broker-dealers—including Bodner’s 19 years at UBS Financial Services and Sax’s five-year UBS term—primarily to flex their advisory muscle.
“The team thoroughly enjoyed its tenure at Merrill Lynch,” they wrote in an e-mailed statement. “Kore’s absolute priority is its clients, and the team looks forward to introducing as many of them as possible to the exciting, enhanced offerings at their new firm.”
Kore, a name the team says plays on offering services “beyond a core private wealth offering,” has chosen Fidelity Investment’s “family office division” as the primary custodian for its clients. Fidelity will give the advisers transition support to help customers offset account “close out fees” if they follow the brokers out of Merrill, according to Kore’s ADV regulatory filing. In addition, Fidelity will “make available or pay” up to $30,000 for “business enterprise, marketing and business development” services from third parties.
Unlike rivals Morgan Stanley and UBS Wealth Management Americas, Merrill Lynch remains in the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, which permits advisors to move to other Protocol firms with limited customer contact information.
A spokeswoman for Kore said the advisors would not comment on what outside firms or lawyers they are working with, or whether the firm has joined the Protocol.
Sax and Bodner have been registered brokers since 1979 and 1985, respectively, according to their BrokerCheck histories. Prior to joining Merrill, Bodner spent 19 years at UBS Financial Services, where he began as a muni bond trader, while Sax had been with UBS for five years following stints at firms including Banc of America Securities, Bear Stearns, Salomon Brothers and Kidder, Peabody.
Joining them at Kore are advisors Jennie Sowers, Andrew Rinaldi and Adam Katz, who the regulatory filing say have ownership interests in the new firm, relationship managers Andrea Zilli, Margaret Hay, Caron Chan, Robert Ellis and Boris Yu, analyst Samantha Schreiber and registered client associate Emily Dafilou.