UBS Cites Multiple Reasons for Ousting a Top Broker
UBS Financial Services has told regulators that it fired Craig D. Findley, its acclaimed multi-billion dollar Ohio-based advisor, for violating firm policies “including, but not limited to, training, outside activities and reporting of business travel.”
The Wealth Management USA unit of the large Swiss bank has not commented on what insiders said was its surprising decision last week to dismiss one of its top brokers.
Findley, 49, operated a 30-plus person team in three states that reportedly oversaw $6.1 billion of customer assets, was credited with $1.1 billion of those assets and served as co-chair of a committee advising UBS management on concerns and priorities of the firm’s 6,000-plus U.S. brokers, according to his team’s former website and sources familiar with his practice. He ranked as one of Barron’s Top 1200 Advisors for eight of the past nine years, and was cited as well in other industry polls.
The terse explanation of Findley’s dismissal was sent to state regulators in a summary of the firm’s U-5 termination notice that was reviewed by AdvisorHub.
UBS explicitly said that the termination was not related to sales or client-related issues. But the U-5 language—including the use of “outside activities” rather than the more common termination cause of unauthorized “outside business activities”—suggests personnel and expense issues, said people familiar with compliance and legal notices who declined to be identified because they were not familiar with Findley’s case.
People at the branch he managed in the Toledo area and at satellite offices of the “Touchstone Wealth Partners” group he co-headed in Ohio, Florida and New York City said they could not comment, or declined to comment. A UBS spokesman did not respond to questions about the filing with the state regulators.
His dismissal raised eyebrows because of his internal prominence and because of UBS Wealth Management USA’s focus on retaining high producers at a time when it has been cutting its recruiting budgets. In spite of those efforts and its attempt to limit departures by exiting the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, UBS has lost more than 100 experienced advisors in recent months to competitors, according to an internal report.
(On Friday, Geoffrey Merl—a first vice president at UBS’s Miamisburg, Ohio, branch who had spent his 15-year career with the firm—left to become a producing manager at a nearby Wells Fargo Advisor private client group branch in Easton, Ohio. Three other advisors on The Synergy Group where he worked remain with UBS.)
Brokerage firms have in recent years tightened up on enforcing violations of so-called soft policy issues such as expense account and personnel issues, as well as on outside business activities that can potentially influence an advisor’s business behavior. Once treated relatively benignly, particularly for top-tier advisers, such violations have garnered more attention from regulators that have triggered suspensions for individuals and failure-to-supervise sanctions for firms.
Findley, who began his brokerage career 26 years ago and joined UBS from Merrill Lynch in late 2011, could not be reached for comment, and did not return requests for comments left with his former colleagues and a family member.
A video on Touchstone Wealth Partners’ website that prominently featured Findley that was live late last week had been taken down as of Monday morning.
Melissa Estrich, the former team administrator for Touchstone, confirmed in a brief phone call on Monday that she has left UBS. She said she left about a week ago voluntarily and was not terminated.
Her career path as a registered representative at Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch and UBS paralleled that of Findley at Smith Barney, Merrill and UBS, according to BrokerCheck, which as of Monday still listed her as registered at the Sylvania office. Findley’s BrokerCheck says he has not been registered with Finra since April 23, and neither his nor Estrich’s records disclose customer, regulatory or legal issues.