November 26, 2013

HighTower, on a Tear, Picks Up Another Merrill Firm, Adds Partner

New York's LCK Wealth, led by Laurie Kamhi, has $320 million in AUM and is third wirehouse team to join HighTower partnership in as many weeks

LCK Wealth Management in New York, formerly affiliated with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s Private Banking & Investment Group, has joined HighTower, with the firm’s leader, Laurie Kamhi, becoming a partner and managing director of the Chicago-based firm. LCK is the 41st team to move to HighTower since the firm’s inception in 2008; Kamhi and her partners, Christine Torrey and Karman Tong, will be based in HighTower’s Midtown New York headquarters.

LCK is the third ex-wirehouse team to join HighTower in as many weeks. The first was Klein Wealth Management, based in Melville, N.Y., and led by Peter Klein, a former UBS advisor. Second was another former Merrill Lynch advisor team, The Andriole Group of Madison, Conn., led by Michael Andriole.

The addition of LCK Wealth reflects the type of firm that is attracted to HighTower, and its desire to bring on more firms led by women, said Michael Parker, HighTower’s national director of enterprise development. Kamhi, he said, is “one of the top female advisors in the industry, and has been for some time,” praising her for being “particularly adept in dealing with high-net-worth and ultra-HNW clients.” Moreover, Parker said “we want to grow that demographic of this business; if we’re trying to grow market share, we need top-caliber women advisors so you can capture that market.”

While attracting female advisors is a focus, Parker said “we won’t sacrifice for quality, for caliber, for fiduciary-minded, sophisticated advisors” who are increasingly attracted to one of HighTower’s multiple models of affiliation.

While acknowledging that adding three teams in one month is "is significant” for HighTower, Parker said all three teams who’ve joined this month “are very careful in their due diligence; it takes months.” Even when they know someone who’s already joined HighTower, which is becoming more and more the case, he said, those teams “still have to go through their own due diligence process.”

That process includes getting answers to three primary questions, Parker said. First, is whether a move to HighTower would benefit their clients. “Does an unconflicted, transparent, fiduciary model improve their relationship with their clients?”  Second is whether the HighTower culture is better for them. “Is HighTower made up of advisors like themselves?” Finally, they want to know what kind of support they’ll receive for their practice compared to what they enjoyed at their former wirehouse employers.

Parker said that the motivation for those who do move is less about “getting away from something else; they’re attracted to the model.” That’s particularly the case for successful advisor teams who begin to wonder about their succession plans and their legacy, he said.

While the LCK team will work out of HighTower’s 42nd Street office in New York, Parker said HighTower is geographically interested in “markets with growth opportunities,” but says “we’ve built the scale to go into smaller markets as well.”

What’s the pipeline look like? “There are more (advisor teams) than we’re looking to bring on; the activity this quarter is a reflection of what the pipeline is like,” Parker says, adding that the level of interest has led him to add members to his business development team. The first source filling the HighTower pipeline is “coming from our existing, incumbent advisors; those are the kinds of referrals you want.” The second source of recruiting comes from “high-caliber firms” that know someone else who’s made the move from a wirehouse to HighTower, while the third source is “introductions from all the people we know” in HighTower’s leadership team and the business development team. Parker oversees both the recruiting process and transition planning, with the business development team working with a relationship management person who becomes the single point of support for transitioning teams.

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Check out HighTower Growth Continues With Andriole Group From Merrill on ThinkAdvisor.

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