Merrill Picks Off $3 Million “International” Broker from Morgan Stanley
In a sign that wirehouses can overcome their trepidation about brokers with out-of-country clients, Merrill Lynch said Thursday that it hired Leon Friedlander, whose customers are largely based in his native Venezuela, in its Aventura, Florida, branch.
Friedlander and client associate Johanna Trujillo joined last week from Morgan Stanley’s nearby branch in Plantation, where they generated $3.1 million in production over the previous 12 months and managed $288 million of client assets, according to a news release from Merrill.
Reached at his new office, Friedlander said in a brief interview that Merrill’s restructured group of specialized “international financial advisors” are aimed at more affluent clients outside of the U.S. than are Morgan Stanley’s. “I want to focus on higher relationships,” he said.
Just three weeks before his move, Morgan Stanley’s Aventura complex manager issued a press release touting Friedlander’s promotion to managing director, indicating the firm’s eagerness to keep him in place. The honorific carries bonuses and recognition club status.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Merrill almost two years ago formed a specialized group of advisors for international clients, modeled on its Private Banking and Investment Group (PBIG) for brokers with ultra high-net-worth clients, at the same time that it restricted most of its salesforce from servicing out-of-country customers in light of tightened money-laundering and regulatory requirements.
It raised account minimums, required non-U.S. residents to cross borders and avow their accounts annually and more than halved to 29 the number of countries whose residents it would serve. It highlighted Latin America and Canada as major focus regions for the new group.
Scores of Merrill brokers in what it had called its non-resident group left and some filed legal actions. But the company also has been selectively recruiting. Last month, Merrill hired a three-person team in Miami from Brazilian bank BTG Pactual.
Morgan Stanley has tightened foreign-resident account criteria as well, but last year built its international group by hiring most of the international-oriented advisors from Credit Suisse’s defunct U.S. brokerage business. It also has picked up some former Merrill international brokers.