Deals & Recruiting Roundup: Creative Planning, EP Wealth, Sequoia And More

Acquisitions By Creative Planning, EP Wealth, OneDigital And Sequoia. Recruitment By Sanctuary, Stratos And Savvy. Mindset Launches With tru Independence. Choreo, Oppenheimer And Hightower Make Strategic Appointments. Wirehouses Dominate Forbes/SHOOK Advisor Ranking.
Chris Latham, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report
Chris Latham, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

This edition of the Deals & Recruiting Roundup covers Creative Planning acquiring ML&R Wealth Management, EP Wealth acquiring Wacker Wealth Partners, OneDigital acquiring Legacy Asset Management, Sequoia acquiring AltruVista, Sanctuary recruiting Vincita Investment Partners, Stratos recruiting Reno Tahoe Wealth Management, Savvy recruiting David Gottlieb, tru Independence helping launch Mindset Wealth Management, Choreo making four senior leadership appointments, Oppenheimer appointing a new Director of Equity Research, Hightower appointing THL Partners’ Gurinder Ahluwalia as President and wirehouses dominating the Forbes/SHOOK Top Wealth Advisors ranking.

Larry’s Take

Larry Roth, CEO, Wealth Solutions Report
Larry Roth, CEO, Wealth Solutions Report

The four acquisitions in this week’s roundup feature wealth management firms that operated for 14 years to over 35 years before these deals occurred. In an era when buyers are snapping up RIAs that have not even existed for a decade, longevity can be an asset in itself for sellers. All else equal, long track records matter.

Mature firms tend to have good reputations, loyal clients, stable operations and solid margins. Although they might not always have the newest technology or most cutting edge investment strategies, acquirers may feel safer that they know what they’re buying with older firms than with some high-growth firms that are younger than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet acquiring older firms also may require updating certain entrenched perspectives and practices among team members who may be resistant to changing things up. All the more reason for deal partners to clarify how the business will evolve, and who must make that happen, in order for the acquisition to achieve its strategic goals.

If you would like to discuss this Larry’s Take further, including how these trends might impact your business, please contact me at larry.roth@rlrstrategicpartners.com.

Mergers & Acquisitions

1. Creative Planning Acquires $2.2 Billion ML&R Wealth Management

Peter Mallouk, President & CEO, Creative Planning
Peter Mallouk, President & CEO, Creative Planning

Overland Park, Kansas-based Creative Planning acquired ML&R Wealth Management (Maxwell Locke & Ritter). The firm has offices in Austin and Round Rock, Texas, and assets under management (AUM) of $2.2 billion as of Dec. 31. It has been in business for more than 25 years. Creative Planning gains 18 employees in the deal.

ML&R provides investment management, financial planning and risk mitigation strategies. It serves more than 3,000 client accounts. The Asset & Wealth Management Investment Banking team of Raymond James served as financial advisor to ML&R. Creative Planning has over $300 billion in assets.

“We are pleased to welcome ML&R Wealth Management and their expert team into the Creative Planning fold,” said Peter Mallouk, CEO of Creative Planning. “They’ve built a strong reputation as thought leaders as well as presence in the Central Texas community, constantly engaging with businesses and individuals with a breadth of insights and solutions to plan for a financially sound future.”

2. EP Wealth Acquires $1.2 Billion Wacker Wealth Partners

Ryan Parker, CEO, EP Wealth
Ryan Parker, CEO, EP Wealth

Torrance, California-based EP Wealth Advisors acquired San Luis Obispo, California-based Wacker Wealth Partners, which has nearly $1.2 billion in AUM. Wacker has been in business for more than 35 years. EP Wealth gains 22 team members in the deal.

Ryan Caldwell, CEO and Wealth Advisor of Wacker, will become Regional Director for Central California at EP Wealth. Bryan Krill, Wacker’s President and COO, will become Associate Regional Director. DeVoe & Company represented Wacker in the acquisition, which is EP Wealth’s 31st since taking a minority investment from Wealth Partners Capital Group in 2017.

“The Wacker team places client service above all other goals, which is just one of the many attributes we share,” said Ryan Parker, CEO of EP Wealth Advisors. “Expanding our presence in this important market was a factor in partnering, but it is the way Wacker shows up for their clients, team members and others that sets them apart.”

3. OneDigital Acquires $550 Million Legacy Asset Management

Joe Birkofer, Founder and President, Legacy Asset Management
Joe Birkofer, Founder and President, Legacy Asset Management

OneDigital Investment Advisors acquired Houston-based Legacy Asset Management, an RIA with approximately $550 million in client assets. Christi Allen, Director of Retirement Plan Consulting at Legacy, and Adriana Elwood, a Wealth Advisor there, became partners at OneDigital. Joe Birkofer, Founder and President of Legacy, started the business in 1998.

Legacy runs company retirement plans and helps employees retire with financial planning and retirement income strategies. The firm works with owner-operated companies, professional service groups, high net worth individuals and nonprofit clients. It has over 300 advisory accounts. OneDigital has over $100 billion in client assets.

“Legacy has played a part in the delivery of financial wellness that leads to secure retirements over the past quarter century,” said Birkofer. “Our partnership with OneDigital ensures that our clients will be at the forefront of wealth creation as we continue to grow.”

4. Sequoia Acquires $310 Million AltruVista

Tom Haught, Founder and CEO, Sequoia Financial Group
Tom Haught, Founder and CEO, Sequoia Financial Group

Akron, Ohio-based Sequoia Financial Group acquired Houston-based AltruVista, which has over $310 million in AUM and serves high net worth business owners and families. Ali Nasser, CEO of AltruVista, founded the firm in 2009. He will become a shareholder of Sequoia.

Sequoia – which has over $18 billion in AUM – provides asset management, estate and retirement planning, fiduciary consulting and family office services. The firm has 14 offices in eight states. Last year, it acquired four firms: Zeke Capital Advisors, Cirrus Wealth Management, Affinia Financial Group and M Capital Advisors.

“AltruVista specializes in crafting customized planning solutions for entrepreneurs and business owners,” said Tom Haught, Founder and CEO of Sequoia. “The foundation for this partnership is based on a long-standing relationship with Ali, mutual respect, and a shared vision for providing unparalleled client support to fuel the success of business owners.”

Advisor Transactions

5. Sanctuary Recruits $700 Million Duo, And 2 Former Wirehouse Executives

Adam Malamed, CEO, Sanctuary Wealth
Adam Malamed, CEO, Sanctuary Wealth

Indianapolis-based Sanctuary Wealth recruited Greensboro, North Carolina-based Vincita Investment Partners, which oversees $700 million in client assets. Vincita’s Founders and Managing Partners, JJ Marus and Lauren Norris, joined Sanctuary’s Partnered Independence platform from Merrill Lynch. Marus has nearly 15 years of experience and Norris has nearly a decade of experience.

Sanctuary also appointed Michael Goldfader as West Coast Regional Managing Director, and Michelle McIntyre as National Business Development Officer. Goldfader, who has 33 years of experience, previously was an executive at Wells Fargo and UBS. McIntyre, who has 32 years of experience, previously was an executive at Merrill Lynch and BNY Mellon Pershing. The Sanctuary network has approximately $30 billion of assets on its platform.

“Vincita Investment Partners is a terrific new firm that is perfect for our Partnered Independence model. JJ and Lauren have built a tremendous business with a lot of runway in front of them,” said Adam Malamed, CEO of Sanctuary Wealth. “We continue to build out our senior leadership team with the best talent from across the industry and are excited to welcome Michael and Michelle to the firm.”

6. Stratos Brings On $500 Million Reno Tahoe Wealth Management

Charles Shapiro, Founding Partner and Chief Development Officer, Stratos
Charles Shapiro, Founding Partner and Chief Development Officer, Stratos

Stratos Wealth Advisors, part of Stratos Wealth Holdings, brought on Reno Tahoe Wealth Management, to establish the firm’s Northern Nevada office. Peter Bessette, Dan Roberts, Carla Bessette, Erich Brenner, Sonni Schafer and Drew Bessette previously oversaw approximately $500 million at RBC Wealth Management.

Reno Tahoe will use Fidelity as its primary custodian. Peter Bessette has 42 years of industry experience and his wife, Carla, has 30 years of industry experience. Stratos Wealth Advisors, which manages over $3.6 billion, has 59 independent advisors, 82 home office staff professionals and more than 30 locations in the U.S.

“Peter’s reputation as a firm leader positions Reno Tahoe Wealth Management for growth in the Northern Nevada region,” said Charles Shapiro, a Stratos Founding Partner and Chief Development Officer. “The Stratos team will focus our efforts on supporting practice management, succession planning, technology and enhanced client investment solutions.”

7. Savvy Adds 20-Year Industry Veteran David Gottlieb In New Jersey

David Gottlieb, Wealth Manager, Savvy Wealth
David Gottlieb, Wealth Manager, Savvy Wealth

Savvy Advisors, an RIA affiliated with Savvy Wealth, added West Orange, New Jersey-based Wealth Manager David Gottlieb. His practice focuses on managing portfolios consisting of industrial, office, retail and multifamily real estate properties held for investment purposes. He has 20 years of industry experience and is the 16th advisor to join Savvy.

In March, Savvy added Del Mar, California-based Aaron Wiegman, who has over 20 years of financial services experience; Los Angeles-based Arynton Hardy, who has 10 years of experience; and Central Arkansas-based Dustin Parsons, who has 13 years of experience. Savvy Advisors was founded in 2021. Savvy Wealth is a digital-first, multi-custodial platform.

“I have long wanted to join a firm with an infrastructure that supports my outside-the-box thinking while enabling me to prioritize helping clients optimize their real estate portfolios,” Gottlieb said. “Savvy’s entrepreneurial nature and digital focus represent the ideal environment to scale my business in the direction that best suits my clients’ evolving needs.”

Strategic Partnerships

8. tru Independence Helps Launch Mindset Wealth Management In Indianapolis

Amit Dogra, President and Chief Innovation Officer, tru Independence
Amit Dogra, President and Chief Innovation Officer, tru Independence

Indianapolis-based RIA Mindset Wealth Management launched on the tru Independence platform. Mindset Co-Founders and Managing Partners Peter Bjelopetrovich, Seth Hickle, James “Louie” Humphries, and Mark Vandygriff previously worked at the RIA Sheaff Brock Investment Advisors. Mindset will use derivative overlay strategies in separately managed accounts.

The team also has experience in serving clients with low-cost-basis stock positions, creating income and diversifying holdings for clients, alongside traditional equity and fixed-income investments. tru Independence, which services approximately $12.5 billion in assets, onboarded six new advisory teams last year collectively representing over $4 billion.

“The Mindset team’s deep experience in asset allocation, unique derivatives strategies and portfolio management experience positions them for continued success in the years to come,” said Amit Dogra, President and Chief Innovation Officer at tru Independence. “We look forward to supporting their journey.”

Promotions & People Moves

9. Choreo Appoints 4 To Senior Leadership Roles

Larry Miles, CEO, Choreo

Choreo named four professionals to new senior leadership roles. Jim Waller became Regional Vice President, Business Development, Mid-Atlantic. Stephen Eldridge became Regional Vice President, Business Development, Southeast. Jeff Brewer became Vice President of Advisory. Browning Mank became Vice President, CPA Partnerships.

Waller joined Choreo as part of its acquisition of BDO Wealth Advisors. Eldridge most recently was a Regional Director at Dimensional Fund Advisors. Brewer previously was Head of Advisor Success at Wealth Source. Prior to Choreo, Mank was Chief Revenue Officer at ForwardLane.

“Over the past two years, we have laid the foundation for our ambitious growth strategy, which is rooted in making Choreo the preferred partner for advisors working at the intersection of tax and financial planning,” said Larry Miles, CEO of Choreo. “But we are just getting started, and with this expansion of our senior leadership team, I am confident that we will be better positioned to build on what we’ve already accomplished and deliver added value to benefit our advisors, CPA partners and clients across the country.”

10. Oppenheimer Appoints William Bird As Director Of Equity Research

William Bird, Director of Equity Research, Oppenheimer
William Bird, Director of Equity Research, Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer & Co., the investment bank and wealth manager subsidiary of publicly traded Oppenheimer Holdings, appointed William Bird as Director of Equity Research. Bird previously served as Managing Director, Head of Thematic Research. Bird has approximately 33 years of experience as an analyst, portfolio manager and management strategy consultant.

Before joining Oppenheimer in October, Bird worked for TD Cowen, Citi-Smith Barney, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Lazard Capital Markets and Steinberg Asset Management. He takes over for John Parks, who is retiring from Oppenheimer after 35 years. Oppenheimer’s financial advisors have access to the firm’s Equity Research insights, which they can use on behalf of wealth management clients.

“I am honored to begin my new role as Director of Equity Research at Oppenheimer,” Bird said. “Our relationships, insights and capabilities are second to none, in large part due to the disciplined and inspired longtime stewardship of John Parks.”

11. Hightower Appoints THL Partners’ Gurinder Ahluwalia As President

Gurinder Ahluwalia, President, Hightower
Gurinder Ahluwalia, President, Hightower

Hightower Advisors appointed Gurinder Ahluwalia as President. Ahluwalia also is Lead Director, Chair of the Audit Committee, Board of Directors at Hightower, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also is Executive Partner at Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL), a private equity firm that is a majority owner of Hightower. He joined THL Partners in 2016.

THL Partners invests in middle-market growth companies in three industry groups: financial technology and services, healthcare, and technology and business solutions. Hightower was a winner of the WSR Wealth Exemplar Awards for Private Equity-Backed Firm of the Year.

In January, Hightower announced that it made a strategic investment in Capital Management Group of New York (CMG), which has $3.3 billion in assets and offices in New York City and Pearl River, New York. The firm has six co-owner partners and six other advisors, with 38 team members in total.

Wirehouse Activity

12. Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS Dominate Forbes/SHOOK Advisor Ranking

Jeff Erdmann, Private Wealth Advisor, Merrill Lynch
Jeff Erdmann, Private Wealth Advisor, Merrill Lynch

The annual Forbes/SHOOK Top Wealth Advisors ranking of 250 seasoned wealth management experts has wirehouse advisors in nine of the top 10 spots. Four of those spots went to Morgan Stanley advisors, three went to UBS advisors and two went to Merrill Lynch advisors.

Merrill Lynch advisor Jeff Erdmann took the top spot on the ranking. Erdmann’s Greenwich, Connecticut-based team oversees $12.7 billion and has a minimum account size of $2.5 million for new business. Palo Alto, California-based Mark Curtis of Graystone Consulting from Morgan Stanley, who placed fifth on the list, runs a team that oversees $111 billion and has a minimum account size of $2 million for new business.

The non-wirehouse advisor who placed fourth in the top 10 is Portage, Michigan-based Charles Zhang, whose Zhang Financial oversees $5 billion and has a minimum account size of $1 million for new business. He also ranked first on Barron’s list of the nation’s Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors for 2023 and 2021.

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

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