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.


Matt Kilgroe: We followed the evolution of the independent space- particularly on the technology side.

Shirl Penney lands UBS team as Dynasty Financial tower-mate in a sign the breakaway movement remains explosive, despite turning to 'quiet launches' during the COVID-19 pandemic

New deals reflect branches/centralized decision-making as albatrosses in virtual world; Northern Florida is case in point -- sheltering at home is not the local practice.

June 17, 2020 — 2:29 AM by Brooke Southall

The breakaway movement may have gone underground during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent market meltdown, but it never blinked.

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Dr. Ajay Dravid: Fees that are at least partly … contingent on beating a benchmark are in investors’ best interests.

Oisin's Bits: Equinox pledges to beat market, and rivals, before collecting fees • Orion-parent TA Associates readies roll-up spree after $375 million purchase • Sanctuary adds breakway No. 26 to $10 billion haul, reeling in Morgan Stanley firm eager to shed 'old mindset'

Equinox Funds, a small, academic asset manager, launches a mutual fund with fees tied to performance; now the results are in • TA Associates, owner of Orion Advisor Solutions, acquires a beachhead for RIA roll-up spree • It's full steam ahead for Sanctuary's Jim Dickson who bags breakaway No. 26

August 28, 2019 — 3:24 AM by Oisin Breen

Last year, a small hedge fund broke with industry practice and put its money where its mouth is. It challenged the sector's notorious 'heads-I-win, tails-you-lose' mutual fund fees.

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Jim Dickson: Our growth has been record setting [and] our pipeline today is much greater than it was a year ago ... We’re growing so fast it’s hard to keep up.

A 20-year Merrill Lynch veteran got Sanctuary Wealth to $10 billion in AUA in 15 months with no outside capital and no time in bed: 'Nobody's slept since April'

Jim Dickson also recruited HighTower talent, Amit Dogra, to bring the old HighTower brokerage model and execute it as HighTower veers toward buying RIAs

August 15, 2019 — 7:58 PM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: So many platforms with so may flavors of vanilla are cropping up. See: The Derek Bruton effect gets louder as two ex-LPL talents join Chalice And why not? Many of them do well in short order. As journalists, we can only gauge so ...

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Bill Hamm: The best laid plans will never happen because it’s the nature of the beast.

After the storm of divorce, LPL Financial leaves Independent Financial Partners diminished in size beyond imagining

IFP only retained a third of the up-for-grabs assets it shared with LPL, but CEO Bill Hamm sees silver linings

June 17, 2019 — 9:40 PM by Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: When skirmishes break out between independent advisors and broker-dealers, the conclusion of the matter is almost always foregone. The independent advisor gets the better of it. That's what makes this situation interesting. LPL got the better of it. But maybe it's not so surprising. ...

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David Hou experienced another seven-year itch and dumped First Republic Bank.

UPDATED: In massive break, $17B 'Luminous' team at First Republic departs en masse to form two separate RIAs --in LA and Foster City, Calif.

David Hou, $4.4B, Mark Sear, $2.9B, Robert Skinner, $4.1B, Alan Zafran $3.9 billion and Eric Harrison $1.9B are forming Evoke Wealth in Los Angeles and IEQ Capital in Monterey, Calif.

June 3, 2019 — 6:25 AM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: I caught wind of this breakaway late Sunday. It felt important enough to jump right on it. It's a really big deal and a wild one with all the simultaneous splits. I also have a personal interest in the deal in one sense. ...

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Jason Fertitta: We are excited to be able to work from the same side of the desk as our clients

Shirl Penney and Brian Hamburger gang-tackle largest breakaway of 2019 as Jason Fertitta, Team Americana bolt Morgan Stanley to form Schwab RIA

The Dynasty CEO and MarketCounsel CEO fended off the logistical and legal furies for small team with $6 billion in AUM and average accounts of $50 million

April 29, 2019 — 5:11 PM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: The roll-ups mostly focus their efforts on buying existing RIAs these days. Much less stressful. But much less impressive as far as mining zero-sum gains for the RIA World. Here, boom, is a good old fashioned win -- and butt-whipping for Morgan Stanley ...

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Anthony Grosso headed an elite unit for Merrill Lynch and his San Francisco roots run deep into 1990s Robertson Stephens soil.

Rockefeller Capital puts its third RIA talent anchor in place with hiring of Anthony Grosso in San Francisco and his venture capital connections

With Chris Dupuy in New York and Michael Outlaw in Atlanta, CEO Greg Fleming is building the ground floor for an edifice of broker recruitment

December 28, 2018 — 9:42 PM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Sometimes it's not exactly a matter of finding a new product or business model. It's just a matter of going bigger and better. Look at Starbucks and what it did to a very existing business model: retail coffee shops. Greg Fleming is bringing ...

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Gary Hirschberg: I believe in contracts.

Yet another Goldman Sachs advisor breaks away, risks its legal ire and stands wordlessly by for three months to become an RIA

Gary Hirschberg oversaw $1.4 billion and teamed up with Mindy Daimond and Shirl Penney to join a growing army of people beating a path away from the platinum-brand investment bank

October 2, 2018 — 5:40 AM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: The reason the Goldman Sachs brand is still awesome is that while other firms may disrupt it or display a more satisfying ethos, they can rarely claim that they outwork it. In world that venerated hierarchies and intense dues paying, Goldman Sachs would rein ...

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Michael Henley: We looked at Focus [Financial Partners] and said: We are not ready to sell our upside.

The very millennial reason Shirl Penney snagged Merrill Lynch's 34 year-old Ayco-killer and his $1B team and why Focus Financial lost out

The Dynasty CEO meshed on Michael Henley's 30-year business plan, which included building equity over decades and a big succession plan

July 31, 2018 — 11:27 PM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Young advisors can be excused for not becoming RIAs -- so the thinking goes. It's enough for them to build knowledge and build relationships, and a wirehouse creates a safe environment to do just that. But another reason millennials stay put and collect ...

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Craig Pearson: [Clients] said: If you come back, we're here.

A higher bidder ripped WealthTouch from Craig Pearson's grasp but his startup could rip the clients, free of charge, right back -- and leave Addepar gasping

After his noncompete expired, the founder and CEO of Private Wealth Systems is welcoming old UHNW managers whose language he speaks

April 25, 2018 — 6:27 PM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: Philosophers are loaded with reasons why vast wealth can screw up your life. Not on that list is the bit where Midas lacks the proper software keep track of all his family's lucre. But Craig Pearson, whose family, he wryly states, went from "riches to rags," ...

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Greg Fleming is setting the bar high.

Recruiters salivate as Greg Fleming completes marriage to Rockefeller & Co. to fill 'HighTower' void but now begins the wait for a business model

The Morgan Stanley ex-head sees 500% assets growth to $100 billion AUA by 2023 as critics see old branding, old money, old technology and old recruiting challenges

March 9, 2018 — 11:03 PM by James Picerno

Brooke's Note: When a wirehouse broker started out on Wall Street in my day there were a few weeks of cramming for the Series 7 and then somebody pointed to a phone on a desk and said: "Start making calls. Good luck." Maybe nobody has ...

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David Root: It's a Pittsburgh story. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try to take full advantage of our position.

How a $500-million Commonwealth rep became a $5-billion-plus RIA in two years and where Dynasty's M&A war on roll-ups comes in

After forming his own RIA, moving assets to Schwab and partnering with Shirl Penney's firm, David Root just kept M&A-rolling into 401(k) clover

January 19, 2018 — 8:19 PM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: Roll-ups are often their own worst enemies. Their ability to write checks to buy revenues is an awesome power but comes with the danger of getting drunk with that power and failing to maintain those assets profitably long-term. Now, roll-ups have a new ...

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Tom Naratil plays catch-up on recruitment withdrawal after setting the early pace.

How UBS exited the Broker Protocol and why the aftereffects may surpass those of Morgan Stanley's earlier departure

Using Thanksgiving and the alleged complicity of his firm's attorneys as a smoke screen, CEO Tom Naratil made good on warning to slam the door on his sales force

November 28, 2017 — 2:37 AM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Watch any NFL game and you'll see delay-of-game penalties even though the quarterback was staring straight at the giant digital clock. People get hit by freight trains visible far in the distance. For some, it turns out, the only effective warning of an event is ...

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Sharron Ash: What next? Are they going to call it attorney-client reporting?

RIA lawyers cry foul against Bressler, Amery & Ross -- keeper of the Protocol flame -- after Morgan Stanley exit throws sunlight on attorney behavior

A livid Sharron Ash says she was stonewalled by Bressler, Amery when she called for info after spotting a buried notice that Morgan Stanley was bowing out of the Protocol

November 2, 2017 — 5:26 AM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Perhaps no profession shows more collegiality than lawyers. But most lawyers are also sticklers for ethics in their own field. When they think something may be way out of whack, concern over ethics quickly usurps collegiality. This article addresses a tricky case on one level. Bressler, Amery & ...

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Shirl Penney: People really get angry.

Timing of Morgan Stanley's Broker Protocol withdrawal sends shocks through RIA legal and recruiting circles

Hundreds of planned and in-process breakaways are reassessed after keeper of the list, Bressler, Amery, & Ross, sat on the change for a week but a silver lining is already emerging

October 31, 2017 — 3:08 AM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: Arguably, the Broker Protocol, established in 2004, was the gift from the Wall Street gods that got the RIA business to critical mass, allowing breakaway brokers to leave with their client assets without getting their asses sued off. That was the good news. The accompanying ...

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