All in the Merrill Family—Til Morgan Stanley Made an Offer
A Merrill Lynch broker who said his $4.2 million of fees and commissions and $500 million of client assets made him the firm’s “biggest” producer in the Cleveland complex left, along with his daughter, to join Morgan Stanley.
Richard E Croasdaile III, confirmed on Tuesday that he resigned on August 31 after 29 years at Merrill, along with three client associates and his daughter, Lauren, who registered as a broker last year.
Citing the experience of his father, who retired as a Merrill broker in a related practice in Canton, Ohio, at age 82 in 2014, Croasdale said he moved for more freedom to advance a practice that still has plenty of growing room.
“With 25 years left in my career and a daughter who would have been third generation at Merrill Lynch, it was apparent to me that over the next 25 years, the future looked better at Morgan Stanley than it did at Merrill Lynch Bank of America,” he said.
Though independent and regional broker-dealers and registered investment advisory firms say wirehouse cultures are increasingly cut from a commoditized cookie-cutter mold with little autonomy for brokers, Croasdaile said he is convinced that the tentacles Bank of America have attached to Merrill are much tighter than those that Morgan Stanley’s holding company has put on its principal brokerage and investment banking businesses.
“In the two weeks that I have been at Morgan Stanley, it’s like a breath of fresh air,” he said, citing account opening policies, documentation requirements and penalties for failing to make referrals to bankers, the broker said. Most of his clients are in fee-based accounts, so his decision was not influenced by the constraints that Merrill has put on commission-based retirement accounts, he said.
A spokeswoman at Morgan Stanley confirmed the move but declined further comment. A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch did not respond to requests for comment.
While Croasdaile received a recruiting package, money was less of a factor than culture for himself and the legacy practice he hopes to develop for his daughter and associates, he said.
Croasdaile did not consider becoming an RIA or an independent broker because he wanted the security of a big-name firm behind him, he said.
While wirehouses such as Merrill, Morgan Stanley and UBS Wealth Americas have slowed down their recruiting of experienced advisors from each other, deliberately and otherwise, Croasdaile’s hire highlights the continuing battles among the firms. Morgan Stanley, whose chief executive once ran Merrill’s retail brokerage network, also hired two Merrill lifers in Virginia in August.
Croasdaile, whose Morgan Stanley branch is based in the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike, joined Merrill in 1988 after first registering as a broker with Kidder, Peabody & Co. in 1986, according to his BrokerCheck history. He has a clean disclosure record, save for one customer dispute in 2001 over an allegedly unauthorized sale of stocks. The complaint was denied by the firm, with no settlement from Merrill or the broker, according to his comments on BrokerCheck.