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Breakaway Stories

There are about $5 trillion of assets parked in traditional stock brokerage firms, but they're not likely to stay there. Every month, clients move some of their money to independent firms with fewer conflicts of interest. Brokers who want more control are moving their books of business, too.

In these Breakaway Stories, you'll find instructive, encouraging and sometimes funny stories about these breakaway brokers and their clients. The information in the stories is accurate as of the date of publication. We hope these tales are useful for breakaway prospects and for people interested in luring wirehouse talent to their firms.


Despite the 33-year age span, the newly independent partners say they work as an unusually copacetic team.

In search of a 'mind-set' shift, $2.2 billion Wichita team tunneled out of Morgan Stanley -- taking absolutely no chances with the guards

Despite the team's three-decade age span, the Morgan Stanley veterans shared a vision for a practice -- one without a roll-up, outsourcer or dictates from New York.

September 19, 2016 — 6:30 PM UTC by By Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: This breakaway is molded -- like a gigantic chunk of prairie sod -- out of the heartland of America. But its sheer size, attitude and sophistication have all the markings of the big breakaways we see in places like New York and LA. Part of that attitude includes the insistence by the RIAs' principals that the dumped wirehouse had nothing wrong with it and that it wasn't left for dead because of any deficiencies. It's not you, Morgan ...

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Andrew Stern: We had a chance to be in a control position.

Lebenthal breakaways stake out a pricey swath of the Hamptons the better to entice wealthy society types who now live there year-round

YorkBridge Wealth Partners is occupying Lebenthal's old digs in Southhampton, the better to scope out UHNW luminaries

August 9, 2016 — 11:23 PM UTC by Brooke Southall and Keith Girard

Brooke’s Note: Perhaps the one place where Wall Street asserts its force of bare-knuckled spending power more than it does on the south end of Manhattan is the north end of Long Island. It seems like the perfect place for an RIA, but for various reasons related to seasonality, an urban office mindset and a nostalgic loyalty to stockbrokers who wear Aqua Velva, Christie Brinkley had to trek into Gotham to hear about her ...

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Alan Zafran: Luminous nearly doubled assets in the past three-and-a half years under First Republic.

First Republic's $70B-plus RIA roll-up loses four top executives as its contract with Luminous team ticks down

Sources say another Great Hou-Sear Escape could be in the offing based on the team's clannish ways when it comes to technology

August 8, 2016 — 8:10 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

Brooke’s Note: There’s no sale like a fire sale — especially when Bank of America is the seller. Chuck Schwab bought his company back from the national bank, built Schwab up and padded his wealth by billions. James Herbert has pulled the same trick — buying back First Republic for pin money when Bank of America sought to raise capital to help pay back the $45 billion it owed the U.S. government in 2010 ...

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Mike Di Girolamo in his Cucina Sabina: Too often I have seen nice advisors or financial professionals handle their own planning last, not do it, or just do it too late.

What exactly led to a Raymond James lifer morphing into a cooking school proprietor in Italy

Two years into his venture, Mike Di Girolamo tells what went into effecting his mouthwatering second chapter

August 3, 2016 — 5:28 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Mike Di Girolamo

Brooke’s Note: One version of the American Dream says that you grow up and move into a picket-fenced home teeming with family life. But that’s just Act One. Act Two is about retiring early and moving to a paradise-like, soul-expanding realm and pursuing a dream vocation. The new vocation, unlike the day job, demotes the sheer need to earn a dollar and promotes the more elevated goal of centering your soul. Implicit in ...

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Brian Amidei: We'll still be in the business, we will still service our client needs.

HighTower blindsides its own Palm Desert team with pink slips leaving pregnant questions in the arid air

The Chicago roll-up cites improprieties by its partner-employees but recruiters find the timing interesting as the team was actively seeking an exit

July 16, 2016 — 12:05 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

Brooke’s Note: Virtually all of the new deals that HighTower is publicizing in 2016 are related to its purchase of RIAs. Its subtractions of advisors are from the employee side of its business. That much we know for sure. The details of the PagnatoKarp departure are still dribbling out. See: After chats with Phyllis Borzi, a flagship HighTower team executes a 'deliberate’ breakaway to form a $2.5-billion RIA. This Amidei team case, more ...

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Scott Oeth: Turns out, I'd applied for a job at my existing firm, and I was summarily dismissed!

How my career path to become an RIA included pay phones, American Express, the pressure of being a physician's son and facing down robbers as a bank teller

It wasn't until I started flipping through industry journals at the bank that I discovered the CFP designation, read some practice profiles, and zeroed in on the field

July 5, 2016 — 7:55 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Scott Oeth

Brooke and Dina’s Note: There’s an old Saturday Night Live skit in which a reporter on the street intones: “In New York City, a man is mugged every 10 seconds.” The camera pulls back to reveal a thoroughly pummeled gentleman. The reporter continues, “ladies and gentlemen, this is that man!” The reporter proceeds to interview the unfortunate but game fellow despite the fact that is he attacked at, you guessed it, 10-second intervals ...

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Lorenzo Esparza was not interested in a 'faux-nership' roll-up model, which he says pretends to offer independence but provides little more than a subsidiary existence under a larger RIA platform.

Lorenzo Esparza leaves JP Morgan in LA to start Manhattan West with tutelage from Schwab

Honoring his immigrant parents' wish, he toiled for 10 years as a lawyer at Paramount before staking out ground in a market with few Hispanics

June 14, 2016 — 8:29 PM UTC by Sanders Wommack

Brooke’s Note: Every time somebody becomes an RIA, there is a sense of arriving at a favorable final destination. Otherwise these stories are like snowflakes — exhibiting great beauty in myriad ways that capture the American dream in the various ways it plays out. See: Vallejo makes case that advisors shouldn’t ignore the Hispanic market of investors. In this case we have a child of Mexican parents fulfilling a destiny for himself, his family ...

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Paul Pagnato: Elliot and Michael did the right thing.

After chats with Phyllis Borzi, a flagship HighTower team executes a 'deliberate' breakaway to form a $2.5-billion RIA

Citing post-DOL-rule concerns about serving their super-rich clientle and hungering for more alternative alternatives, Paul Pagnato and David Karp have ankled the captive brokerage world but are keeping ties to the Chicago roll-up

June 1, 2016 — 9:00 PM UTC by Sanders Wommack

Brooke’s Note: Perhaps the most impressive aspect of HighTower, at least in its early days, was its seemingly singular ability to extract one big wirehouse team after another from the clutches of Wall Street. It was inevitable that choosing mates that have mate-ditching experience might produce advisors who would move on over time. This channel switch by PagnatoKarp represents a maturing process, a milestone perhaps, but also a test for HighTower. Will its other ...

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Paul Kingsman: I knew my new business partner well -- she was my mother-in-law!

How my mother-in-law steered my career from Olympic swimming in New Zealand to fee-based advising in the US

I was a 1988 bronze medalist -- a first for a Kiwi male -- taught swimming, sold Speedos, but wanted to help others avoid the fate of my badly advised parents -- a path that took me to the World Trade Center as a Morgan Stanley trainee in 2001

May 27, 2016 — 3:49 PM UTC by Guest Columnist Paul Kingsman

Brooke’s Note: Becoming a financial advisor is a hell of a big challenge. You need to pass tests, survive training programs and, most often, come away with a book of business. You also need to find a firm that shares your values, stay out of trouble and be in it for the long haul. It’s not easy to put a clientele in cold storage while you go off and try a new career ...

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Tarek El Gammal-Ortiz:

Why a Miami breakaway trio sees no vice in leaving half-a-billion of client assets on JP Morgan's table

Element Pointe Advisors seek to ease HNW and UHNW client angst by watching their held-away assets

April 5, 2016 — 8:05 PM UTC by Lisa Shidler

For three advisors from J.P. Morgan’s private bank in Miami, the math is simple: Subtract hundreds of millions in client assets and one of the bluest chip names in finance from your career gains and come out with a net benefit that include a few weeks to plant radishes.

Such was the advanced calculus completed by Carlos Dominguez, 43, and David Savir, 32, in forming Element Pointe Advisors on March 23, who by ...

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