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Another Breakaway Merrill Advisor Heads to HighTower

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In the third advisor breakaway from Merrill Lynch to HighTower in the past month, Charles Holt announced Monday that he had joined the RIA’s Pagnato-Karp Group, based in Washington, as a partner and managing director.

Holt, a former senior vice president with Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth Management Group and 20-year veteran in the financial services industry, joined HighTower on Friday. Headquartered in Chicago, HighTower has a growing asset base that stood at more than $20 billion at last count.

A large producer of more than $1 million in annual revenues at Merrill, Holt has about $200 million in client assets under management. All of Holt’s 80 clients made the move with him to HighTower, said partner and managing director Paul Pagnato in a phone interview.

Pagnato said he worked with Holt at Merrill Lynch for 20 years, and the two formally partnered together with clients for over 10 years. When Pagnato-Karp Group broke from Merrill eight months ago, the group followed the protocol and didn’t share that information with anyone, he noted. “After we broke, Charlie reached out to us and said he wanted to be part of our group and continue the relationship,” he said.

“When advisors get into this business, one of the reasons why we do it is because we all have a streak of entrepreneurship in us,” Pagnato said. “We create our own business, bringing on our own clients and running it with a lot of autonomy. What’s happened more recently is that advisors don’t feel like they’re running their own business anymore. HighTower is a place where you feel fulfilled in that again.”

With the addition of Holt, Pagnato-Karp now numbers 14 people on its team.

Mike Papedis, HighTower’s executive vice president of business development“The addition of Charles Holt to our partnership demonstrates that our advisors have the ability to grow their teams by bringing on new partners,” said Mike Papedis (left), HighTower’s executive vice president of business development, in a statement.  “HighTower has built a model that is completely unique to the financial services industry. It’s so compelling that we’re seeing individual advisors eager to … benefit from what we’ve built.” 

This latest move comes on the heels of two other breakaways from Merrill to HighTower. The first, on Feb. 17, brought Leo Kelly and Brian Grumbach of the Kelly Group at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management into the HighTower fold. Kelly and his team managed $700 million of client assets at Merrill and will lead HighTower’s expansion into the Baltimore market.

The second move happened on March 2, when a $1.4 billion Merrill Lynch private banking team joined HighTower’s New York office, with the wealth managers Kenneth Hoffman, Richard Steinberg and Jordan Waxman joining as partners and managing directors.

The Pagnato-Karp Group is a wealth management service provider, and Holt plans to develop advanced planning strategies for clients, including preservation of capital, tax minimization and lifetime cash flow. He received a B.A. in finance from Michigan State University and in 1998 completed the Merrill Lynch Financial Consultants Program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Read HighTower’s Weissbluth: ‘Brokers Are Butchers; Fiduciaries Are Dietitians’ at AdvisorOne.


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