Sontag Joins Board of Focus Financial; Bruton In as Lucia Capital CEO

These groups aim to add more advisors — and business — from the wirehouses as well as from independent firms

A former Merrill exec and a former LPL exec have landed at new firms. A former Merrill exec and a former LPL exec have landed at new firms.

Focus Financial Partners said Thursday that former Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management President Dan Sontag had joined the board of directors. In addition, Derek Bruton, who recently led the Independent Advisor Services unit of LPL Financial (LPLA), is set to become CEO of Lucia Capital Group.

“Dan’s track record, vision and leadership in the wealth-management industry speaks for itself,” said Rudy Adolf, founder and CEO of Focus, in a press release. “His insights from his years on Wall Street working with thousands of financial advisors across the country and around the world will be of great value as we continue to expand the Focus Connections model.”

Sontag joined Merrill Lynch in 1978 and retired from the brokerage firm in August 2009, only a day after Bank of America (BAC) said Sallie Krawcheck was set to be the new head of the bank’s Global Wealth and Investment Management division and be Sontag’s boss.

At the time of his departure, he had held the post as head of wealth management about seven months. Sontag was tapped for the job in January 2009, when Bob McCann relinquished it. (Nearly three years later, McCann became CEO of UBS Group Americas (UBS); Krawcheck's post was eliminated by Bank of America in September 2011.)

“This is the most exciting time to offer strategic guidance in the wealth management industry, as the industry evolves and independent wealth management firms continue to gain market share,” Sontag said in a statement.

“My time at Merrill Lynch was spent growing the wealth management business in a manner that would empower advisors to best serve their clients,” he added. “The Focus team brings expertise and sophistication to transitioning teams, and I look forward to contributing to the future direction and growth of the leading player in the independent space.”

With Sontag, Focus Financial has seven board members, six of whom are independent.

Since January, it has helped IFM Capital Advisors, Summit Financial and Quadrant Private Wealth leave UBS, Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch, respectively, through its Focus Connections program. The wealth management partnership says its yearly revenue tops $300 million.

In June, Focus tapped another Merrill Lynch veteran, Chris Dupuy, to be co-president of Focus Connections. Like Sontag, he worked at Mother Merrill for roughly 30 years.

“Dan’s reputation, knowledge and network are almost unparalleled in the wealth management industry,” said Dupuy, in a press release. “I have personally seen Dan’s impact as he successfully guided advisors through some of the most tumultuous and disruptive years in the history of the industry. We are excited for Dan to bring similar insight and guidance to the Focus team.”

From LPL to Lucia

Lucia Capital Group, which has some $2.3 billion of client assets and 16 wealth advice and asset management offices nationwide, said Thursday that it hired former LPL Financial executive Bruton to serve as “a centerpiece of the firm’s next chapter of strategic growth … across multiple business lines.”

Lucia’s operations include 24 employee advisors serving clients throughout its RIA. In addition, Lucia runs the Bucket Strategy Advisor Network, a practice management platform and coaching program for some 50 independent advisors.

Bruton “has a proven track record of growing companies of all sizes in our industry, and he possesses a vast array of knowledge across a number of areas crucial to our future plans, including acquisitions, business integration and advisor relations,” said Chairman Ray Lucia Jr., in a press release. “There’s no question that Derek will be a pivotal asset to our firm, and I am delighted to welcome him to our team.”

According to Lucia, the firm’s growth plans include attracting more advisors to its RIA operations, acquiring advisor teams and adding clients to its Bucket Strategy Advisor Network.

Bruton left LPL Financial in early April, after the company expressed “concerns over his interactions with other employees.”

In a statement, the independent broker-dealer added that his resignation “was not related to company performance.” It chose Bill Morrissey to replace him as head of its Independent Advisor Services unit about 10 days later.

LPL Financial tapped Bruton as a managing director in 2010, three years after he joined the firm. Prior to this move, Bruton was a senior manager at TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Merrill Lynch (BAC) and Charles Schwab (SCHW).

“I have had the very good fortune to work with the best and brightest minds in the business, including some of the most talented registered investment advisors, financial advisors and asset management firm executives in the space,” Bruton said in a statement. “Now it’s time to harness what I have learned and return to my roots with this new role at Lucia Capital Group.”

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