Recruitment Roundup: Atria, Kestra, Mercer, Creative Planning, Advisor Group, Hightower and Wealthspire

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

Atria Recruits Credit Union From LPL, Advisor Group Poaches Dynasty Co-Founder, Mercer Gains PE Fuel, Creative Planning Acquires Professional Services Firm, Kestra Recruits Breakaways, Wealthspire To Expand Into Richmond, Hightower Expands In New England

This week M&A dominates our roundup of news covering strategic alliances, recruitments, acquisitions and people moves as Atlas Partners joins Genstar and Oak Hill as private equity investors in Mercer Advisors, Creative Planning acquires BerganKDV and Wealthspire acquires a $1 billion firm in Richmond, Virginia, as well as Hightower strategically investing in a Boston-based RIA serving the New England area.

In addition, Kestra recruits four wirehouse breakaways, Atria poaches a credit union from LPL – the third credit union in less than a month to join Atria’s subsidiary CFS – and Dynasty’s Edward Swenson moves to Advisor Group to head the firm’s RIA channel.

Advisor Transactions

1. Kestra Assembles Four Wirehouse Breakaways To Form New Firm

Kestra Private Wealth Services, a subsidiary of Kestra Financial, announced the formation of Destination Wealth Services, which combines four wirehouse breakaways: CEO and Partner Ben McDonald, along with Bryant Trombly, Austin Palmer and Dee Buckminster, all Partners and Wealth Advisors.

With over $500 million in assets, the newly formed firm on Kestra PWS’ platform will focus on wealth planning for individuals specializing in small business planning, in the style of a family office without the high thresholds.

McDonald previously worked at BGW Wealth Advisors, which he founded after breaking away from Edward Jones in 2021. Trombly, Palmer and Buckminister come from Merrill Lynch. Their new firm will have a headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina and offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and Hendersonville, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Los Angeles.

Rob Bartenstein, Senior Managing Director and CEO of Kestra PWS, said, “The Destination Wealth team is looking to grow their business and attract like-minded financial professionals with client interests top of mind. Kestra PWS offers the versatility and time to personalize financial plans to each unique situation without worrying about the operational side of the business.”

2. Atria Recruits Pittsburgh-Based Credit Union From LPL

Atria Wealth Solutions’ subsidiary CUSO Financial Services (CFS) announced that Clearview Federal Credit Union, with 18 locations across Southwestern Pennsylvania, over 117,000 members and more than $1.8 billion in assets, joined its platform from LPL Financial.

This marks the third credit union to join CFS in weeks, closely following the May recruitments of Harvard University Employees Credit Union and Mobiloil Credit Union.

Brian Bichler, Co-Head of Financial Institution channel, Atria Wealth Solutions

Earlier this year, Atria appointed Kevin Mummau and Brian Bichler as Co-Heads of its Financial Institution channel, with responsibility for CFS and its sibling Sorrento Pacific Financial, which also serves financial institutions. Both founded in 1997, CFS and Sorrento serve over 200 banks and credit unions.

Bichler said, “We work diligently to create unique experiences for each of our financial institutions and Clearview is no exception. From the beginning, our focus has been to understand their vision and challenges, and then develop a customized approach which includes an in-person training initiative, specialized support and smart, seamless solutions proven to enrich the financial professional and member relationship.”

Mergers & Acquisitions

3. Private Equity Firm Atlas Will Invest In Mercer Advisors

Mercer Advisors announced that private equity firm Atlas Partners will invest in the company in a transaction expected to complete in the third quarter of this year. Atlas joins Genstar Capital, Oak Hill Capital and over 300 Mercer employees as owners.

Dave Welling, CEO, Mercer Advisors

With assets under management (AUM) of approximately $48 billion as of Apr. 30 and almost 900 employees in the U.S., Mercer provides family office services for clients ranging from mass affluent to ultra-high net worth individuals, as well as foundations, companies, institutions and endowments. Atlas operates from Toronto and New York, managing approximately $10 billion on behalf of institutional and family office investors worldwide.

“We have had an outstanding partnership with Genstar and Oak Hill for many years and chose Atlas as our newest strategic investor because they believe in our mission, purpose, and strategy and are committed to support continued investment in capabilities that will allow us to enhance the way we serve our clients,” said Dave Welling, CEO of Mercer.

4. Creative Planning Acquires Professional Services Firm BerganKDV

Creative Planning acquired BerganKDV, which provides business, financial and technology solutions including tax and audit, accounting, business advisory and wealth management. BerganKDV brings 600 employees and almost $2.5 billion in AUM to Creative Planning’s over $210 billion in assets under management and advisement across 50 states and 65 countries as of Dec. 31. Founded in 1945, BerganKDV is led by CEO Dave Hinnenkamp.

Peter Mallouk, President & CEO, Creative Planning

Peter Mallouk, President and CEO of Creative Planning, said, “Creative Planning is thrilled to bring on the BerganKDV team to give us an even stronger presence in the Midwest. Dave and his team have always had their sights set on going beyond traditional financial, tech, and business solutions to do more for their clients, communities and team members. Their client-centric approach is the perfect cultural fit for our ever-growing Creative Planning family.”

Republic Capital Group served as the exclusive investment banking advisor on the deal. Its Founder and Managing Partner, John Langston, said, “Dave and his team have built a great firm, serving clients extraordinarily well. It’s exciting to be part of the coming together of these two fantastic organizations.”

5. Wealthspire To Expand Into Richmond By Acquiring $1 Billion Firm

Wealthspire Advisors announced an agreement to purchase Richmond, Virginia-based ACG Wealth Management, which provides qualified plans, tax strategy, investment management and third-party administrator (TPA) services. ACG serves over 240 families and 285 plan sponsors, with assets of approximately $1 billion as of March 31. Wealthspire maintains 20 offices across 12 states and a 19-person investment team.

Mike LaMena, CEO, Wealthspire Advisors

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter, and ACG’s TPA and retirement business will be integrated into the Atlantic region retirement division of Wealthspire’s parent company, NFP, which is a benefits consultant, property and casualty broker, wealth manager and retirement plan advisor. ACG’s clients are expected to benefit from Wealthspire’s investment team, technology and middle- and back-office support.

“We are excited to continue our expansion in the Atlantic region by entering the Richmond market with the addition of such a talented team who will be culturally and professionally additive to our organization,” said Mike LaMena, CEO of Wealthspire. “ACG’s deep network and community connections make the group an excellent partner as we continue to grow our presence on the East Coast.”

Strategic Partnerships

6. Hightower Strategically Invests In $1 Billion New England RIA

Hightower Advisors announced a strategic investment in North Andover, Massachusetts-based Boston Hill Advisors (BHA), a fee-based RIA with three offices across the state, serving approximately 1,000 client relationships with 17 employees, including eight advisors.

Founded in 2006 by Managing Partners Joseph Trainor and Michael Edwards, BHA holds $1 billion in assets and provides holistic wealth management and financial planning services to institutions and high net worth individuals, primarily in New England.

Hightower Chairman and CEO Bob Oros said, “Boston Hill Advisors is a firm that has built a reputation in the Boston region – both a big city and a small town – as a trusted advisor to individuals, families, and institutions. We are excited to provide our value-added services to support their long-lasting relationships with multiple generations of clients.”

Hightower provides a range of services to its 132 advisory businesses in 34 states and the District of Columbia, with assets under administration of approximately $148.2 billion, and AUM of $119.9 billion as of March 31. This deal follows closely after Hightower’s strategic investment in Vigilant Wealth Management.

Promotions & People Moves

7. Advisor Group Hires Dynasty COO And Co-Founder To Head RIA Channel

Edward C. Swenson, EVP and President of Advisor Group RIA Solutions

Advisor Group hired Edward C. Swenson to the newly created role of Executive Vice President and President of Advisor Group RIA Solutions. Swenson, who recently left Dynasty Financial Partners, where he was COO and Co-Founder, will lead the firm’s hybrid and RIA channel strategies and the development of a corporate RIA platform for fee-based advisors.

Swenson will report to both CEO and President Jamie Price as well as President of Advice and Wealth Management Greg Cornick. His appointment is part of the firm’s plan to simplify its business structure around three business models – independent, led by Erinn Ford, EVP, Advisor Engagement; RIA solutions, led by Swenson; and financial institutions, led by Steve Amarante, President of Infinex.

Price said, “Ed will play a critical role in strengthening Advisor Group’s position as a leader in attracting and serving all profiles of financial professionals. Our commitment to supporting and growing our RIA channel is steadfast. Bringing a seasoned executive of Ed’s caliber onboard to drive this effort underscores its strategic importance to our future success.”

Janeesa Hollingshead, Contributing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at editor@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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