Morgan Stanley Hires Three, Loses One in Restless South Florida Market
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has hired three brokers in southern Florida with a combined $3.4 million in production from rival wirehouses in recent days, while losing another advisor producing almost $1 million in the state to Raymond James Financial.
The moves emphasize the turbulence at wirehouses seeking to fill managerial holes and broker seats in prime markets.
Morgan Stanley last week tapped veteran New Jersey manager Richard Donovan to oversee its Palm Beach Gardens complex following a series of managerial shifts in its Boca Raton-area complex, while Merrill Lynch made managerial shifts in key Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.
The largest of the three recent Morgan Stanley brokerage team hires in the Sunshine State was the team of Ana Cristina Vergel-Gandia and Max Becker, who joined the firm’s Biscayne Boulevard branch in Aventura on Friday from the private client group of Wells Fargo Advisors.
They were producing about $1.9 million in annual revenue on $2.9 million in customer assets, according to a knowledgeable source.
Neither Vergel-Gandia, a wirehouse lifer who spent the last 14 years of her 23-year career at Wells, nor Becker, returned calls for comment. Becker had been with Wells for half of his 14-year brokerage career, according to his BrokerCheck history.
A spokeswoman for Wells did not return a request for comment, while a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed the hires.
Vergel-Gandia began her brokerage career in 1996 at Smith Barney and also worked at UBS before joining Wells Fargo in 2005, according to her BrokerCheck history, which has no disclosures of customer or other complaints.
Becker worked at Edward Jones and four small firms—beginning at Atlas One Financial Group in Miami in 2005—before joining Wells in 2012. He has one complaint on his record from 2009 that sought $1 million in damages for breach of fiduciary duty and settled for $320,000, according to BrokerCheck.
At another branch of the Morgan Stanley Aventura/Fort Lauderdale complex, 36-year brokerage veteran Steven S. Kaufman arrived on August 16 from Merrill Lynch with his business partner, Jeffrey Millikin and a client associate. They had been producing around $1.5 million in annual revenue, according to a person familiar with the move.
Kaufman had been with Merrill for 13 years—after 12 years at Smith Barney and 10 years at Prudential Securities. Millikin began his career in 2007 at Merrill Lynch.
Kaufman confirmed his move, but said he could not immediately comment on his reasons.
A Merrill spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
The departing Morgan Stanley advisor in Fort Lauderdale was Jeff Shover, who left on Friday after ten years at the firm’s Las Olas Boulevard branch for a Raymond James branch in the same city.
Shover, at least the 14th advisor to join Raymond James’ employee channel in the southern Florida region in the past 18 months, was producing $975,000 from around $130 million in client assets, according to a person familiar with his practice. The advisor, who began his brokerage career at Merrill Lynch in 1993, did not return a request for comment.
Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and UBS Wealth Management USA have cut their recruiting budgets in the past few years, but Morgan Stanley and UBS executives have said they remain interested in high-end producers servicing ultra-high-net-worth clients. (Merrill Lynch Wealth head Andy Sieg said earlier this summer that the firm is sticking with its 18-month-old decision to refrain from “competitive recruiting.”)
The recent round of Morgan Stanley hires illustrate that while it has not been luring super-elite teams, it has been incentivizing managers to fill seats with million-dollar producers, headhunters said. It is offering as much 250% of trailing-12-month revenue including up-front cash and back-end bonuses to brokers at or near the million-dollar production range, they said.