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Merrill Loses Four Advisors to Wells Fargo

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Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) said Tuesday that it hired four advisors from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BAC) and one from UBS (UBS). This announcement came one day after reports that Merrill’s non-U.S. wealth-management business could be sold to Julius Baer and that BofA was cutting some management jobs at its U.S. Trust unit.

Formerly with Merrill, the Landsberg Bennett Private Wealth Management Group is joining Wells’ independent channels—Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or FiNet—in Punta Gorda, Fla.

The group includes Michael Landsberg, Lewis Bennett and Anthony Dubbaneh, who have combined yearly fees and commissions of $4.2 million and combined assets under management of $493 million.

Salim Kimiagar of Woodland Hills, Calif., left Merrill with about $178 million in AUM and 22 years of experience to join Wells’ Private Client Group.

Wells Fargo also said on Tuesday that Bruce Davidson moved to its Wealth Brokerage Services Group (the channel for advisors operating in bank branches) from UBS with about $1.1 million in annual production, $178 million in assets and 22 years of experience. He will be based in Boise, Idaho.

BofA, along with other banks like Morgan Stanley (MS) and UBS, is under pressure to improve its financial results.

In April, Bank of America-Merrill put its non-U.S. wealth-management business up for sale, with the hope of raising about $3 billion. On Tuesday, according to several news reports, the Swiss private bank Julius Baer Group said it was in talks to buy the unit, which has about $90 billion in assets under management.

In addition, BofA’s U.S. Trust unit reportedly fired some executives in charge of trust officers and private-client advisors on Tuesday. The move is meant to help BofA trim about $3 billion in expenses tied to its wealth-management and investment-banking operations.

Experts, though, say that Merrill should continue to be able to recruit advisors despite these and other issues affecting its parent firm, especially considering the lucrative packages it offers prospective advisors.

“If Merrill Lynch keeps paying signing bonuses, there will always be financial advisors willing to join,” said Chip Roame, managing principal of Tiburon Strategic Advisors, a financial services consulting firm, in an interview with AdvisorOne.


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