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Morgan Stanley Grabs 4 From Merrill, Wells

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Spring is shaping up to be a fairly decent season so far for Morgan Stanley’s (MS) recruiting team.

The firm, which is led by James Gorman, said Monday that it successfully recruited four advisors from rival firms with a total of $3.7 million in yearly fees and commissions and more than $425 million in client assets under management.

The latest recruits include Mark Pentella, who joined Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s office in Akron, Ohio, from Merrill Lynch (BAC). He moved with fellow advisor Jessica Palmer.

The group, which has about $1.13 million in annual production and $125 million of client assets, now reports to branch manager Jason Haines.

In Riverwoods, Ill., David and Kirsten Gordon joined Morgan Stanley from Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC). The Gordon Financial Group, which has about $2.6 million in yearly production and more than $300 million in client assets, now reports to branch manager Mark Boersma.

In March, Morgan Stanley said it hired CNBC co-anchor Gary Kaminsky to serve as vice chairman of its wealth management unit. In this role, Kaminsky is working with financial advisors on client relations and business development.

Morgan Stanley hired ex-Merrill Lynch technology leader Chris Randazzo to lead the technology focus for its wealth unit last month, as well. Randazzo has close to 20 years of technology experience.

In the fourth quarter, Morgan Stanley said it had 16,780 advisors, down 29 reps from the prior quarter and off 4% from last year’s tally of 17,512. Average annualized revenue per rep, though, was $824,000, an improvement of 4% from the prior quarter and 13% from last year.

“Morgan Stanley may have its technology challenges, but the fact is that it has a broad-based platform of fee-based services and a pretty hefty recruiting war chest,” said Mark Elweig, head of the executive-search consulting group Mark Elzweig Company in New York, in an interview. “Also, advisors who like the wirehouse model have only  one of four firms from which to choose. Depending upon where they’ve worked before, the actual number of choices is even fewer” than a few years before.


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