David Wisehaupt used to joke that if he were cut, little bulls would run out — that’s how loyal he was to Merrill Lynch, his longtime corporate home.
For 26 years, the 51-year-old Wisehaupt took on increasingly greater responsibilities at the firm, eventually managing discretionary portfolios for clients using his own proprietary investment methods. When Wisehaupt and his partner defected to HighTower Advisors last December, Merrill Lynch executives had just told Wisehaupt that his risk-adjusted portfolio investment process had been approved for use by the firm’s entire sales force. The rollout never happened.
“We hated to leave that on the table,” he says. “It would have been nice if we could have built a relationship with many advisors around the country.”
David Wisehaupt, MANAGING DIRECTOR & SENIOR PORTFOLIO MANAGER, WISEHAUPT BRAY ASSET MANAGEMENT AT HIGHTOWER ADVISORS, PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA.
THE QUESTION THAT DRIVES HIM: How do you make money in the market?
Wisehaupt, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is one of the high-profile breakaway brokers that industry upstart HighTower Advisors has recruited in recent months from global investment firms burned in Wall Street’s implosion.
“Clearly the wirehouse model had changed. It was being dismantled,” observes Wisehaupt. When Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch, Wisehaupt and partner Stella Kariofilis Bray began quietly shopping. “It was a great firm and a great culture for a lot of years,” he says. “When we looked at all the major firms on the Street, we kept coming back to the same big worry: They had all basically changed control. We just didn’t know what they would end up looking like. We didn’t know what their value proposition would be. We didn’t want to ask clients to make a big change only to take them to something that wasn’t so good.”
After an exhaustive search, Wisehaupt settled on HighTower, an advisor-owned financial services firm focused on the needs of the wealthy. Along the way, Wisehaupt and Bray considered opening their own company but opted not to after deciding it would take as long as two years to get it right. With HighTower, he said: “It was the one firm we found that had done it as closely to the way we would do it ourselves.”