Rockefeller Grabs $4.5-Million-Plus Team from Merrill in Dallas
Rockefeller Capital Management on Friday hired an eight-person Merrill Lynch team in Dallas that was overseeing $703 million of customer assets and producing more than $4.5 million, according to several sources.The five-advisor RSA Group from Merrill’s Galleria branch is led by Neil D. Rubinstein and James D. Sandfort, whose website lists them among Forbes’ “Best-in-State Wealth Advisors” for 2018 and 2019.
Rubinstein had been with Merrill for all but one of his almost 19 years as a broker. Sandfort joined in the summer of 2008—a few months before Merrill was absorbed into Bank of America—after six years with UBS Wealth Management in Dallas, according to their BrokerCheck records.
“They’re among the top 10 [Merrill teams] in Texas,” said a Merrill broker at another Dallas branch. “Five-million-dollar teams don’t grow on trees.”
For Rockefeller, which is led by former Merrill president and Morgan Stanley Wealth Management head Greg Fleming, the hires continue the recapitalized firm’s strategy of expanding from its family-office roots into a broader high-net-worth cohort by luring wirehouse talent.
The New York-based firm has hired seven multi-million-dollar teams of advisors in Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and, now, Dallas since last September. Three had been with UBS Wealth Management USA—including Bruce Tenenbaum, who joined in California last month—and three migrated from Merrill Lynch. Its first new team following Fleming’s January 2018 arrival was the father-and-son group led by Nick and Michael Bapis, who had previously been with HighTower Advisors and Morgan Stanley.
Merrill on Friday also bid adieu to Terence Byrne in New York City, a $736,000 producer who joined Morgan Stanley’s 1290 Avenue of the Americas branch, according to two people. A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed his hire, and a Merrill spokeswoman did not respond to requests on either of the Friday departures. Morgan Stanley also recruited a two-advisor Merrill team in Illinois four weeks ago that was generating about $1 million in revenue.
In addition to recruiting brokers, Fleming has larded his management and internal recruiting team with a cadre of former Morgan Stanley and Merrill veterans. Michael Armondo, the former head of Merrill’s Dallas complex head, joined Rockefeller earlier this year but was not directly involved in the RSA recruiting, said people familiar with the transition.
Rockefeller, founded more than 135 years ago to manage the fortunes of the Standard Oil founding family, has no ambitions to grow to wirehouse size, but could have around 200 wealth management teams within five years, said a person familiar with its growth plans. Fleming has said he aims for the firm to oversee some $100 billion within that time frame.
The firm has also been hiring private bankers to work at its multi-family office unit that is run by Timothy O’Hara, the former head of Goldman Sachs’ Ayco unit that focuses on financial planning for corporate executives.
The cachet of the Rockefeller name is proving stronger than expected for advisers seeking to move client assets from their firms, insiders said. The teams that moved this year are on pace to beat the industry average of 60-80% of former client assets within 12 months, they said.
Rubinstein and Sandfort service the standard high-net-worth mix of “successful individuals and families, including professionals and business owners,” according to their former Merrill website. Their team includes younger advisors Anna Gorman, Ryan Barcena and Michael Buss, and client associates Robyn R Petty-Greer, Stephanie Smith and Rachel Esquivel.