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$650M Merrill Team Makes a Break for Independence With LPL

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What You Need to Know

  • The advisors have created independent practice NorthEnd Private Wealth.
  • The independent advisor team is the latest to become affiliated with LPL Financial’s Strategic Wealth Services.
  • This is just the latest example of advisors breaking away from wirehouses to go independent.

A four-person financial advisor team managing about $650 million in advisory, brokerage and retirement plan assets has broken away from Merrill Lynch to create the independent practice NorthEnd Private Wealth, affiliated with LPL Financial’s Strategic Wealth Services (SWS).

The advisor team, based in the North End business district of Greenville, South Carolina, is made up of Josh Brown, Scott Thompson, Joel Gray and James (Jake) Cluverius Jr.

The advisor team’s four managing partners have been friends and colleagues for over two decades. Their diverse backgrounds add to their unique perspectives, having all entered the industry from other professions: mechanical engineering, teaching, law and marketing, according to Brown.

With administrative support from Jeannie Fowler and Ashley Thomason, the advisor team mainly provides wealth management, retirement income planning and estate planning.

In what has become a growing industry trend, the team was seeking more control of their business and the ability to chart their own path, so it chose to break away from their wirehouse firm, Merrill, and launch an independent practice with support from LPL.

“We wanted to be able to establish a culture in our firm that reflects our beliefs and service standards,” Brown said in the announcement. “As independent advisors with LPL, we are able to put our clients first and always operate in their best interests.”

The NorthEnd team will leverage LPL’s broker-dealer, corporate RIA and custodial platforms, LPL noted. LPL’s SWS program supports the unique needs of experienced advisors moving from wirehouses to independence and provides “ongoing, personalized support for daily operations and long-term business management,” it said.

The SWS model “bridges the transition to independence by providing the team with support and services to launch their business, including real estate sourcing, brand development, technology setup” and human resources support, LPL said. LPL will also provide ongoing administrative, marketing and CFO services to the NorthEnd team, it added.

SWS “really allows us to simplify our business and have the strategic support so that we can really focus on our business and strip away some of the noise,” Brown said. “We love the SWS motto, ‘You own it, we run it.’ That’s exactly what we were looking for — someone to handle the back office, negotiate on the lease, order furniture, and build our website, among other things.”

The advisors are especially “looking forward to all of the services we can tap to manage and grow our business, specifically marketing events to help us reach both our current clients and prospective ones,” he added.

Once it has settled onto LPL’s platform, the NorthEnd team has two immediate goals: organic growth via referrals and growing its advisor team. “We believe NorthEnd could be a destination for other advisors, whether breakaways from a wirehouse or independent advisors looking for more scope,” Brown said.

LPL has about 17,300 independent financial advisors and 450 independent RIA firms across the U.S. that manage $903 billion in advisory and brokerage assets, according to its website.