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Morgan Stanley Taps Former Merrill Exec for Regional Post

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Morgan Stanley Smith Barney named Devon Baranski, formerly of the Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group, as the new head of its ultra-high-net-worth operations in the Southwest.

“I am pleased to announce that after a thorough search, Devon Baranski (left) will join Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management as the PWM Regional Manager for the Southwest,” said Douglas J. Ketterer, head of the U.S. private-wealth management operations, in an email sent to regional staff on Thursday.

“In this role, Devon will serve as a leader and valuable partner in helping support and drive UHNW business development in the Southwest region,” Ketterer explained. “Devon will be based in the Los Angeles PWM office and will report directly to me.”

At Merrill, Baranski managed the Western region of Merrill Lynch’s private-banking operations, including the opening of Merrill’s first private-banking office in Los Angeles in June 2001. This office became “the flagship office for Merrill’s PBIG efforts,” according to Ketterer.

Most recently, Baranski was head of wealth management for Leerink Swann, a health-care focused investment bank and brokerage firm.

“The Southwest region represents one of the largest growth opportunities for Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management,” Ketterer wrote. “The region continues to see growth of $10-million-plus households, with California having the largest portion of high-income households in the Western U.S. Additionally, the market share of $10-million-plus households in the Southwest is particularly fragmented among financial firms, with no one firm garnering a significant share of the market.”

Three months after firing about 300 advisors, Morgan Stanley moved to get rid of more lower-producing FAs in mid-June. “We may go below the previously stated range of 17,500-18,500 as we continue to prune underperformers, but we’re not putting a number on it right now,” the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney spokesperson explained in a statement.

In early March, Morgan Stanley also took steps to lay off between 200-300 lower-level advisors. At the time, the job cuts were reported to generally affect lower-producing advisor trainees with three years or less of experience and $25,000 yearly fees and commissions, and those with five years or less of experience and $75,000 a year in production.

As part of its efforts to help advisors boost results, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney said recently that it would allow about 600 advisors to fully access LinkedIn and partially access Twitter starting in late June. Over the next six months, it plans for its entire FA force to have access to these social-media outlets as a way to stay in touch with existing clients and work with prospective clients.