Growing Up with Merrill Lynch: A Next-Gen Breakaway Story

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Mindy Diamond

A conversation with ex-Merrill advisor Elizabeth “Lizzie” Evans, Managing Partner of Evans May Wealth, and Guest Host Louis Diamond

Retire-in-place programs at the big brokerage firms were designed to create both an opportunity for a senior advisor to monetize his life’s work, while offering the inheritor a chance to “buy” his book—a quick path to building the next gen’s business.

But, as this once next gen inheritor shares, it may not be the best path.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Evans’ father was a 45-year veteran at Merrill Lynch—and built a practice that was literally a big part of Lizzie’s childhood. She and her family attended Merrill events and went on company trips; she even recalls a photo of her as a baby wearing an outfit with the Merrill bull logo on it.

Essentially, Lizzie grew up with the firm.

She later joined the “family business,” working at Merrill for 7-1/2 years with her father and now partner, Brooke May.

And she’s the first to say that Merrill did an excellent job of creating a culture of excellence and a client-first mentality, with the best and the brightest advisor talent spawned from a wonderful training program.

Then the “family feeling” at the firm started to disappear. The team was also becoming increasingly limited on what they could do to serve their clients and grow their business.

And with her father having signed on to Merrill’s Client Transition Program (CTP), the firm’s retire-in-place agreement, she found herself at a crossroads: Stay with Merrill, consider a transition deal from another brokerage firm or make the leap to independence.

So, along with Brooke, Lizzie’s husband Ian Flanagan and team members from Merrill, they formed independent firm Evans May Wealth in partnership with Sanctuary Wealth Partners, just over one year ago. In this episode, Lizzie shares her journey with guest host Louis Diamond and together they discuss:

  • What senior advisors and next gen inheritors need to ask themselves when confronted with a sunset package—and how, as Lizzie shares, next gen advisors need to realize they are agreeing to “buy something they will ultimately not own.”
  • What her father, a 45-year veteran of Merrill, thought about her decision to leave the firm—and how concerns over transitioning right on the heels of the CTP agreement influenced their thought process.
  • What the real drivers were behind their decision to leave Merrill—and why they opted for independence instead of a recruiting deal at another firm, particularly at such a young age.
  • What drew them to Sanctuary’s supported independence model—and why Lizzie and her partners felt that a fully independent model would dilute their client experience and investment discipline.
  • What Evans May Wealth can do now that they could not do as employees of Merrill—and how that’s been a real gamechanger for their business.

And ultimately, Lizzie paints a clear picture for senior advisors considering their firms’ sunset programs, as well as shares firsthand advice for next gen inheritors who are thinking about their own futures—a candid conversation that both populations can relate to.


Listen to additional episodes in this series


Elizabeth “Lizzie” Evans Bio

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Evans, CFP®, is the founding and managing partner of Evans May Wealth. She was featured in Forbes Magazine’s Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2019, Forbes America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors in 2019, and Forbes Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors in 2019, 2018, and 2017. Lizzie holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER certification, which is awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., and enables her to take a planning-oriented approach to wealth management. Prior to transitioning Evans May Wealth to an independent firm, Lizzie was a Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch. She serves as a board member of Sanctuary Wealth, advisory council of Central Indiana Community Foundation, and is active in her local Indianapolis community.

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