UBS, Amid Protocol Shock, Lands Six Oklahoma City Brokers from Merrill Lynch
The second round of the Protocol Dash began on Tuesday as UBS Financial Services hired six brokers who had spent most of their careers at rival Merrill Lynch in Oklahoma City.
The team of Michael “Tip” Holland, Zachary Newby and Drew Knox, who worked at Merrill’s 11-broker Gaillardia Parkway office, opened a new private wealth management office for UBS down the road, according to well-placed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They were joined by sole practitioner Drew Williamson, who also was at the office managed by Newby, by John Cromling and Jay Edzards—sole practitioners who had been based at Merrill’s larger downtown Oklahoma City branch. The six brokers collectively generated about $7 million of fees and commissions in the past 12 months and oversaw more than $1 billion of client assets, a source said. About eight client associates and analysts joined them in the move.
The jump occurred while the brokers were under the quickly expiring protection of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, which allows them to take rudimentary client contact information with them to a fellow Protocol firm without fear of being sued for violating employment contracts or privacy laws. UBS announced on Monday that it is leaving the Protocol as of Friday, a move viewed as a way to protect its depleting salesforce from losing brokers and their clients to rivals.
While the large firms that created the Protocol 13 years ago have been suffering defections recently to smaller broker-dealers and independent advisors that have joined the pact, UBS has made hay against traditional competitors on the eve of its departure. Earlier this month, it hired longtime Merrill producers in New Jersey and Illinois.
A person familiar with the Oklahoma City immigrants to UBS said they had been planning their moves for months under assiduous wooing but jumped mid-week in part over concerns about the Protocol decision. Brokers as a general rule tend to give notice at the end of the week, giving them a weekend to reinforce contacts with customers from their former firms.
When Morgan Stanley, the biggest U.S. brokerage firm by salesforce size, gave its almost 16,000 brokers four-day notice of its exit from the Protocol a month ago, a surge of its brokers accelerated moves to rival firms before their protected status ended.
Merrill Lynch remains a Protocol signatory but is widely expected to follow its rivals out, and perhaps revive its historically assiduous litigation against escaping advisors.
Merrill spokespeople have declined to comment on the firm’s Protocol plans.
The Oklahoma brokers are joining UBS’s private wealth management group platform for upper-tier producers but were not part of Merrill’s similar private banking and investment group. They were, however, veterans of the Thundering Herd.
Holland first registered as a broker in 1983 with First Investors Corp, where he spent about a year, but has been with Merrill for 32 subsequent years. His teammates Newby and Knox have worked only at Merrill during their respective 12 and three-year careers as brokers, according to Finra’s BrokerCheck database.
Williamson has the distinction of having spent less than a month at UBS in early 2009 before deciding to return to Merrill, where he had worked since April 1991. It was his sole home, with the exception of a seven-month stint at the start of his career with Stifel, Nicolaus.
Cromling and Edzards were both Merrill lifers, having worked at the firm in Oklahoma since July 1997 and August 1988, respectively, according to their BrokerCheck histories.