Merrill Teams with $1.3 Bln AUM Leave “Community” Unit for Wells, RBC
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management lost two sizable teams in its fledgling “community markets” unit on successive Fridays at the end of August to Wells Fargo Advisors and RBC Wealth Management, while RBC also added two Merrill teams in Marin County, California.In Scranton, Pa., 29-year Merrill veteran William Bender, 60, moved with four of his children—advisors ranging in age from 30 to 39—and two client associates to Wells. He was feeling frustrated by the growing number of Bank of America-tied directives on how to manage a primarily fee-based practice that produced $4.2 million on $730 million of customer assets, he said.
“I like having banking as an option, and it can help certain people, but I need to be the one to decide where and when it’s appropriate,” he said, noting the irony that BofA has no branches in Scranton, where Wells has been long established. “Telling me what percentage of my clients need to be in banking and tying compensation to that is not appropriate. ”
Merrill Wealth President Andy Sieg created the community markets unit at the start of 2018 to give more support and oversight to geographies remote from larger Merrill offices and outside the Bank of America “footprint.” The customized attention led him to modify a loan and checking-account bonus program, giving community bankers this year twice the credits as other Merrill brokers receive for hitting targets.
Bender, who said he and his children signed ten-year contracts with Wells because he still likes the comfort of wirehouse support, wasn’t impressed.
“Two times zero is still zero,” the 60-year-old broker said, admitting facetiousness. “It’s about the principle of the issue, not that we couldn’t make our growth goals. I don’t want to be told what to be focusing on.”
One week after the Benders moved on August 23, Kurt Veldhuizen and his fee-based team of four other advisors and three associates (including his father) in Minocqua, Wisconsin, locked their Merrill office and moved up Highway 51 to open a new RBC Wealth branch. They managed about $540 million in assets at Merrill, where Veldhuizen and teammate Matthew Kock qualified this year as Forbes’ “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors,” RBC said in a news release about the northern WIsconsin team.
“We believe the client-first culture, comprehensive approach to wealth management and world-class investment solutions of RBC will allow us to continue to work in our clients’ best interests,” Veldhuizen said in a prepared statement.
Separately, four Merrill advisers in Mill Valley, Calif. left on August 28 to seed a new Marin County branch for the U.S. wealth management unit of Royal Bank of Canada.
Led by 2019 Forbes “Best in State” advisor Patrick T. Farley, who was with Merrill for 18 years of his 26-year career, the team was managing about $326 million of customer assets at their former firm, according to RBC. Joining them at the new Greenbrae branch is independent practitioner Margarita Perry, a 23-year Merrill veteran who was managing about $125 million in assets, RBC said.
Spokespeople at Merrill did not respond to requests for comments on the moves and the firm’s community banking strategy.
In its short life, the community business unit has had several overseers. Benjamin Prince, its founding head left Merrill in December. Community markets is now run by Eric Schimpf, who also heads Merrill’s Atlanta-based Southeast division. Schimpf in April named Tony Kurlas, a veteran Florida manager, to run the community unit day-to-day as its “strategy executive.”