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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

HighTower, Focus Add Wirehouse Advisors

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May has been a busy time for recruiters, who are eager to get deals signed before advisors take their summer vacations. While several independent broker-dealers have been successful at attracting breakaway brokers, the wirehouses and other employee channels have drawn their fair share of advisors from rivals.

HighTower said Monday that the Ezzell Group of Sacramento, Calif., has affiliated with the independent advisor group. The team moved from Merrill Lynch and oversees nearly $300 million in client assets.

 “The Ezzell Group will build equity in their own businesses and retain 100 percent autonomy over their practices, while leveraging the HighTower platform to lower operating risk and increase access to world-class investment solutions,” said HighTower CEO Elliot Weissbluth, in a press release. “Network teams have access to the industry’s best investment solutions and a robust services and technology platform to fuel their growth starting on day one.”

The Ezzell Group incluces Jason Ezzell, managing director and founder, and Alec Fisher, senior manager.

Ezzell joined Merrill Lynch in 1999 and specializes in individual wealth management, deferred-compensation plans, concentrated stock and option plans and business-succession planning.

Fisher develops holistic financial plans based on individual client needs, goals and tolerance for risk. The team serves the Sacramento and San Francisco areas.

“HighTower’s culture of transparency and integrity reflects the values that inform every one of our client relationships,” said Ezzell in a statement. “The firm’s sophisticated technology and deep operational resources will be invaluable in driving our growth and enabling us to go above and beyond for our clients.”

Focus Financial said Tuesday that a team of former-Wells Fargo advisors joined its partner firm, LVW Advisors, in Rochester, N.Y. Joseph Zappia and Ted Garofola, CFP, previously part of the Zappia Investment Group at Wells Fargo have joined LVW to launch LVW Family Wealth.

The team previously managed about $400 million in client assets.

“Lori Van Dusen and the team at LVW are truly among the very best in the country, and we are thrilled to support this noteworthy firm achieve their growth objectives through high caliber transactions,” noted Rudy Adolf, CEO of Focus Financial Partners, in a press release. “We remain committed to supporting the transition of advisors, like Lori and Joseph, out of the wirehouses as RIAs continue to gain market share. Our track record with transitions and mergers speaks for itself and we are proud to support this continuing trend.”

The latest advisor move was facilitated by Focus Connections, a program aimed at helping wirehouse teams make successful transitions into independent firms, the firm says. LVW was itself launched through the program in 2011 and now has $2 billion in client assets under management.

“Joe [Zappia] has been an industry peer for years, and I am delighted to have someone with such deep investment and financial planning expertise as part of our team,” said Lori Van Dusen, CEO of LVW, in a press release. “With the ongoing support and counsel of Focus, we continue to look for like-minded partners, like Joe, as we expand our offering and add talent.”

“As our industry evolves, we felt strongly that becoming fiduciaries and partnering with LVW Advisors would allow us to best serve our clients’ interests,” explained Zappia, in a statement. “I am excited about leveraging this partnership and using our combined experience to serve the needs of high-net-worth families, who will benefit from the firm’s state-of-the-art infrastructure that supports sophisticated investments typically unavailable to private clients.”

Other Recruits

Commonwealth Financial Network said last week that it recruited an advisor team with more than $150 in assets under management. The team used to be affiliated with MassMutual Financial Group.

The Glen Ellyn, Ill.-based advisors, Joe Esposito and Keith Kiker, used Commonwealth’s virtual recruiting platform, the IBD says.

With the moves of Esposito and Kiker, the Advisor Center, which is used by a number IBDs, has facilitated the transition of an estimated $1.22 billion in AUM since its launch in late 2012, according to Commonwealth. A total of 33 advisors have joined 18 different firms in the Advisor Center’s online community.

“Working with the team at the Advisor Center was a great experience from start to finish,” added Keith Kiker, CFP. “Tom [Daley] and his staff were very hands-on throughout the process and willing to meet with us to provide further clarification about our options whenever needed. Most importantly, the team was product agnostic and showed no bias towards certain firms when it came to discussing options with us.”

Wells Fargo Advisors said Wednesday that it added one team from Morgan Stanley (MS) to its independent channel (FiNet), while an advisor from Merrill Lynch and a rep from UBS joined its traditional employee-channel. The team and individual reps each move to the firm with more than $1 million in yearly fees and commissions.

In Salem, Ore., Summit Wealth Management, led by financial advisor Richard Lee, along with Brandon Blair, Mike Costa and Barbara Hacke Resch, moved to Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network from Morgan Stanley on May 2.

Also earlier this month, financial advisor Milton Schwartz joined Wells Fargo Advisors in Sumter, S.C., where he reports to branch manager Roy Creech and South Carolina complex manager Scott Spang.

Most recently, Schwartz served as branch manager for Merrill Lynch’s Sumter branch, where he managed more than $135 million in client assets and produced more than $1.1 million in annual revenue. He has about 27 years of industry experience, according to Wells.

Financial advisor David Spell moved to WFA in nearby Charleston, S.C., where he will report to branch manager Rod Connell, as well as to Spang. He moved from UBS Financial Services, where he managed more than $86 million in client assets and produced more than $1 million in annual revenue.

Spell, who has more than 12 years of experience, joined the firm on March 27.

Earlier in May, Raymond James said it recruited Senior Vice Presidents of Investments Jeffery Tomaszewski and Gary Rigby to the Ocala, Fla., office of Raymond James & Associates, its employee broker-dealer.

The team came to Raymond James from Merrill Lynch, where they managed more than $280 million in client assets and had annual fees and commissions of approximately $1.6 million.

“We looked for a couple years and considered half a dozen firms during our due diligence process,” said Rigby, in a press release. “After meeting with senior leadership, we found the type of customer service Raymond James provides and the corporate culture permeating the firm to be a great fit for our needs and the needs of our clients.”


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