Transitions, Transactions & Promotions: Cetera Recruits Patriot Financial, Cerity Partners Merges Twice

Chris Latham, Deputy Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

2023 Kicks Off With Huge Mergers And Recruitments, While Edward Jones Hires American Funds Executive Russell Tipper To Run Its Fee-Based Platforms


Our first 2023 edition of Transitions, Transactions & Promotions covers advisor transactions representing approximately $5 billion in new client assets and M&A deals representing approximately $10 billion in new client assets. In addition to recent developments that we explore here for the first time, we also add fresh perspectives to some of the major moves that WSR reported during the past month. Here are the details:

Advisor Transactions

1. Cetera Recruits The Patriot Financial Group, Gaining $2.5 Billion In Assets

The Patriot Financial Group (TPFG), a Westborough, Massachusetts-based RIA with over $2.5 billion in assets, has joined the Cetera Financial Specialists community of the Cetera Financial Group. TPFG, which works with more than 70 advisors, previously was affiliated with the Advisor Group independent broker-dealer Securities America.

Why it matters: Cetera reached new records for recruitment and business development in the second and third quarters of 2022, bringing in $6.3 billion in assets in Q3. As of Dec. 31, Cetera oversaw approximately $322 billion in assets under administration (AUA) and $115 billion in assets under management (AUM). TPFG Chairman David O’Donnell founded his firm 18 years ago, expanding it across five northeastern states as well as Florida and Nebraska.

“We are delighted to enter into this strategic business venture with an industry leader in Cetera, which has proven resources and expertise to support and elevate our market penetration and position,” O’Donnell said in the press release. “With access to leading solutions on our RIA platform and Cetera as our new broker-dealer platform, our reps are well equipped to best serve their clients with best-in-class resources, tools and support.”

To learn more, view the press release here.

2. Fountain Financial Group Joins Raymond James Partner Pinnacle Asset Management

Eric Fountain, Managing Director, Fountain Financial Group

Memphis, Tennessee-based Fountain Financial Group joined Pinnacle Asset Management, a division of Nashville-based Pinnacle Financial Partners, which oversaw approximately $40.1 billion in assets as of June 30, 2022. Fountain Financial Group consists of nine financial professionals who reportedly oversaw approximately $832 million at First Horizon Advisors before switching affiliations.

Why it matters: As a result of the deal, the advisors for Fountain Financial Group work through Raymond James Financial Services, which also is the company through which Pinnacle Financial Partners offers securities. This deal demonstrates how two publicly traded financial companies, Pinnacle and Raymond James, can work together to facilitate midsized advisor moves. Indeed, Fountain Financial Group now appears on a Raymond James webpage.

“I was drawn to Pinnacle because of its reputation as a place where experienced professionals are given the independence they need to make full use of their talents,” Managing Director Eric Fountain said in the press release. “Everyone in this group has a heart to serve, and Pinnacle empowers us to deliver the high level of care our clients are used to. Nothing is more important than our clients, and the culture and decentralized organization here are exactly what we need to put them first.”

To learn more, view the press release here.

3. Kestra’s Bluespring Brings On $700 Million Goldstein Advisors In Wisconsin

Austin, Texas-based Bluespring Wealth Partners brought onto its platform Goldstein Advisors, a Middleton, Wisconsin-based firm overseeing approximately $700 million in assets. Principals Jon Goldstein and Andy Peters lead the 16-member team at Goldstein Advisors, which provides strategic investment, tax and financial planning services.

Why it matters: Bluespring supports 19 other firms throughout the U.S., according to its website. Bluespring is a subsidiary of Kestra Holdings, which consists of approximately 2,400 financial professionals overseeing more than $200 billion in assets under management and advisement. 

Kestra Holdings also is a recent winner of the WSR Wealth Exemplar Awards Private Equity-Backed Firm of the Year. In 2019, Warburg Pincus acquired a majority stake in Kestra, and in September of 2022, Oak Hill Capital bought the stake held by Stone Point Capital since 2016.

“Our decision came down to the strong cultural alignment we have with the Bluespring Wealth Partners team. We’re a client-first firm with a team-oriented, growth-minded approach,” Goldstein and Peters said in the press release. “Bluespring Wealth Partners checked all our boxes, allowing us to keep our brand, identity in the local community, and processes that work for our team and clients while providing support to achieve our long-term goals.”

To learn more, view the press release here.

4. Kingswood US Enters 2023 With Annual Gain Of Nearly $1 Billion In Client Assets

Michael Nessim, CEO, President and Managing Partner of Kingswood U.S.

Kingswood U.S., whose network of wealth management firms oversees more than $3 billion in client assets, recruited a total 21 financial advisors throughout 2022 who supervise over $943 million in AUM. The New York City-headquartered company supports more than 200 advisors under the Kingswood Wealth Advisors (KWA) brand.

Why it matters: In the fourth quarter alone, Kingswood U.S. recruited 15 advisors, including practices based in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Hawaii. As previously reported, the company’s automated alternative investment platform for financial advisors surpassed 1,200 subscriptions representing $129 million in investments in three years, and Kingswood U.S. is launching a new Covered Security Submission Portal on the alts platform.

“Enabling financial advisors to provide exceptional service to their clients are at the heart of Kingswood, a company defined by a deeply held commitment to its network of financial professionals,” Michael Nessim, CEO, President and Managing Partner of Kingswood U.S., said in the press release. “Advisors seeking greater flexibility to deliver the best results for their clients will always be empowered to do more at Kingswood.”

To learn more, view the press release here.

Mergers & Acquisitions

5. Wealthcare Acquires $100 Million Sommers Financial Management

Wealthcare Advisory Partners acquired St. Helens, Oregon-based Sommers Financial Management, which has over $100 million in AUM. Its three-member advisory team consists of Adam Sommers, Joyce Pereira and Blaine Butcher. The team also has offices in Scappoose, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona. Wealthcare has recruited three RIAs in the last six months, bringing its total AUM to approximately $5 billion across more than 150 advisors.

Why it matters: Wealthcare utilizes the proprietary GDX360 fiduciary process to integrate planning, investing, trading and a suite of practice management services. The company also is a recent winner of the WSR Wealth Exemplar Awards Practice Management Platform of the Year. Wealthcare – which comprises two RIAs, Wealthcare Advisory Partners and Wealthcare Capital Management – is backed by the private equity firm NewSpring Holdings.

“I’m excited to join Wealthcare, a firm that shares our values and offers a compelling solution through their proprietary technology and industry-leading support services,” Adam Sommers, the team’s founder, said in the press release. “The Sommers team has always excelled at servicing our clients, and this combination will provide us an even greater ability to focus on driving successful client outcomes.”

To learn more, view the press release here.

6. Cerity Partners Merges With ARGI Financial And Ashfield Capital, Gaining $6.7 Billion

Joe Reeves, CEO, ARGI Financial

Cerity Partners closed its merger with Louisville, Kentucky-based ARGI Financial, which oversees approximately $4.8 billion in AUM according to its latest SEC ADV, and announced a deal with San Francisco-based Ashfield Capital Partners, which oversees approximately $1.9 billion in AUM according to its latest SEC ADV. Citywire RIA first reported on the Ashfield deal.

Why it matters: Cerity gains two strategically significant firms through these mergers, which are estimated to push its total client assets well over $50 billion. ARGI’s 250 financial professionals serve more than 3,000 clients including key personnel at Fortune 500 companies. The Ashfield deal expands Cerity’s presence in the Bay Area. Previous mergers there include Bingham Osborn & Scarborough, gaining $5 billion in assets in 2021, and Brouwer & Janachowski, gaining $2.3 billion in assets last year.

 “Although we considered several factors assessing this unique merger, we remained keenly focused on the importance of retaining objectivity in serving clients and providing growth opportunities for our colleagues,” ARGI Financial CEO Joe Reeves said in the press release. “The outside capital decision was driven by a desire to create a succession plan for the firm and bring in the resources and talent to thrive for the next 40 years,” Ashfield Capital Partners CEO Peter Johnson said in the Citywire RIA article.

To learn more, view the press release here.

7. UHNW Insurance Boutique
AXG Advisors Acquires Philadelphia-Area Firm Rose Glen

Ultra-high net worth (UHNW) insurance and risk mitigation solutions provider AXG Advisors announced its acquisition of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania-based Rose Glen, which integrates financial and insurance solutions for wealth transfer, preservation and accumulation for UHNW clientele nationwide.

Why it matters: AXG solutions use an “insurance as alternative investment” approach while Rose Glen provides corporations with solutions for disability and long-term care coverage, voluntary disability plans and deferred compensation. 

Morey Goldberg, Founder and CEO of Rose Glen, mentored George Papanier, Principal and co-founder of AXG, for several years prior to Papanier’s launch of AXG in 2019 with co-founder and Principal Adam Pauska. Goldberg joins AXG as a senior advisor, and the majority of Rose Glen’s leadership team will stay on.

“This acquisition of Rose Glen’s operations will provide continuity and security for all the clients and stakeholders involved,” AXG Advisors Principal and co-founder George Papanier said in the press release. All of us at AXG are grateful to continue the Rose Glen legacy by maintaining the same high standards and level of expertise that their clients have come to expect.”


To learn more, view the press release here.

8.
Alera Group Acquires The Ascent Group, Adding $2.8 Billion In Client Assets 

Jeff Silverman, Co-Founder, The Ascent Group

Deerfield, Illinois-based Alera Group acquired The Ascent Group, which employs 42 associates including 15 financial advisors through two affiliated companies: the Virginia Beach-based Summit Group and the Wayne, Pennsylvania-based Walsh & Nicholson Financial Group.

Why it matters: The deal adds $1.5 billion to Alera’s RIA business, which now oversees a total of approximately $7.5 billion in AUM, and $1.3 billion to its retirement plan services business. The Ascent Group also provides a turnkey asset management program (TAMP). In total, Alera Group has more than 4,000 financial professionals in more than 180 offices nationwide. 

Alera Group also recently acquired Colorado-based Insurance Benefits by Design, which provides group and individual health, life, dental, vision and disability insurance, in addition to business continuation planning.

“We’re builders,” The Ascent Group co-founder Jeff Silverman said in the press release, “And what drew us to Alera Group is the opportunity to keep building a better system – faster, leaner and more cost effective for clients. Now we can do so on a larger scale, reaching a larger number of advisors and investors.”

To learn more, view the press releases here and here.

Strategic Partnerships


9. Choreo Agrees To Partner With GreerWalker And Acquire $275 Million Team

Chicago-based Choreo agreed to acquire GreerWalker Wealth LLC and enter into a strategic partnership with the tax, accounting and advisory firm GreerWalker LLP. GreerWalker Wealth LLC oversees approximately $275 million in AUM and is an affiliate of GreerWalker LLP, which has offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina.

Why it matters: Choreo appears to see strong advantages to wealth managers partnering with CPAs. The partnership aims to accelerate growth for both Choreo and GreerWalker LLP by generating new opportunities for their financial professionals and clients. The acquisition agreement boosts Choreo’s total assets under management and advisement to approximately $14.8 billion. As WSR previously covered, Choreo also recently agreed to acquire Enso Wealth Management and Cherry Bekaert Wealth Management.

“Partnering with GreerWalker is a special opportunity,” Choreo CEO Larry Miles said in the press release. “Our firms have a strong philosophical alignment, shared CPA heritage and a complementary vision for future growth.”

To learn more, view the press release here.


Promotions & People Moves

10. Edward Jones Hires American Funds Executive To Run Its Fee-Based Platforms

Russell Tipper, General Partner, Investment Advisory, Edward Jones

Edward Jones hired Russell Tipper, an industry veteran with nearly 25 years of financial services experience, to run its fee-based platforms, according to Financial Advisor IQ. His new title is General Partner, Investment Advisory, according to his LinkedIn profile. Tipper most recently served as a Senior Vice President and Director of Wealth Management Product at American Funds, a subsidiary of Capital Group.

Why it matters: Edward Jones has a reputation for prioritizing commission-based service, despite the yearslong industrywide shift toward fee-based services in response to client preferences. Tipper’s appointment may be a sign that the firm is beginning to move more in line with industry peers. In December, Edward Jones also announced that investors would have access to new personalized research models through its managed accounts platform. 

“Russ’s experience on the asset manager side at Capital Group combined with his time on the advisor side of the business at Merrill Lynch/BoA give him a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities on both sides of the equation,” Scott Smith, director of advice relationships at Cerulli Associates, was quoted as saying in the Financial Advisor IQ article.

To learn more, view the Financial Advisor IQ article here.

Chris Latham, Deputy Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at clatham@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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