Deals & Recruiting Roundup: Fidelity, J.P. Morgan, Homrich Berg And More

Fidelity And ECHELON Partners Release M&A Reports. WEG Acquires Lynch Retirement Investment Group. Cresset, Citizens And Merrill Recruit From J.P. Morgan. LPL Gains 4 Advisors With $1.4 Billion. Strategic Appointments By Essential Edge, Concurrent, Carson Group, Homrich Berg And Cetera.
Chris Latham, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report
Chris Latham, Managing Editor, Wealth Solutions Report

This edition of the Deals & Recruiting Roundup covers M&A reports by Fidelity and ECHELON Partners; Wealth Enhancement Group acquiring Lynch Retirement Investment Group; Cresset, Citizens and Merrill each recruiting billion-dollar teams from J.P. Morgan; LPL announcing in the same week the onboarding of four advisors whose combined practices manage $1.4 billion; Essential Edge adding to its advisory board; Concurrent appointing a CFO and three other strategic hires; Carson Group appointing a CFO and a Controller; Homrich Berg appointing a Head Of Corporate Development and a Chief Advisor Officer; and Cetera appointing a Head of Corporate Development.

Larry’s Take

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

Brand reputation is a greatly underestimated factor for a wealth management firm, in large part because it’s difficult to quantify in the same way as advisor headcount, asset levels, geographic footprints and profit margins. But major M&A deals and recruitments have come down to which brand is more highly regarded in the industry.

The inverse is also true. If a firm tarnishes its brand reputation bad enough, that can scare off talent, clients and potential deal partners. Even private equity firms may think twice about injecting capital into an RIA or IBD that’s embroiled in a headline-grabbing scandal. Some issues, whether they are regulatory actions or civil lawsuits, may be too damning to risk being associated with.

This is why it is so crucial to work with the right people, and to conduct thorough due diligence on them before getting involved. That guidance applies to firm leaders who are bringing people into their organizations, as well as to financial professionals who are considering doing business with those organizations.

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. Fidelity, ECHELON Partners Release Their Q1 2024 M&A Findings

Dan Seivert, CEO and Managing Partner, ECHELON Partners
Dan Seivert, CEO and Managing Partner, ECHELON Partners

The Fidelity Quarterly M&A Review and ECHELON’s RIA M&A Deal Report were both recently released. Although they differ on methodologies, deal counts and assets transacted, both findings agreed that in the first quarter 2024, strategic acquirers continued to dominate the M&A landscape.

Fidelity found that acquirers are pursuing geographical expansions toward a national footprint. It also noted the trend of RIA firms acquiring practices in adjacent services such as tax firms, CPA firms and consulting services. ECHELON Partners found that the quarter saw several notable majority investments by private equity firms. It also anticipates that a total of approximately 330 transactions will be announced in 2024.

“Although Q1 2024 RIA M&A activity does not seem poised to position FY 2024 as record-setting, this quarter’s main emphasis is on the size of deals,” Fidelity reported. “It’s worth noting that most transactions typically take an average of nine months to complete, suggesting that the increase in Q1 activity likely reflects deals from 2023 extending into 2024,” ECHELON Partners reported.

2. WEG Acquires $502 Million Lynch Retirement Investment Group

Jeff Dekko, CEO, Wealth Enhancement Group
Jeff Dekko, CEO, Wealth Enhancement Group

Wealth Enhancement Group (WEG), which has over $81.9 billion in client assets, acquired the Columbia, Maryland-based hybrid RIA Lynch Retirement Investment Group, which manages $502 million in assets. Senior Advisor John Lynch leads the team of three financial advisors and three support personnel.

Lynch Retirement Investment Group provides financial planning, asset management, longevity planning, retirement planning, tax planning and estate planning. The deal marks WEG’s fourth location in Maryland. Park Sutton Advisors served as the exclusive financial advisor to Lynch Retirement Investment Group in the transaction.

“We are proud to welcome John Lynch and the Lynch Retirement Investment Group team to Wealth Enhancement Group,” said Jeff Dekko, CEO of WEG. “Their commitment to integrity, innovation, and providing comprehensive financial services makes them a natural fit for our firm.”

Advisor Transactions

3. Cresset Adds 2 Advisory Teams With Combined $5 Billion From J.P. Morgan

Avy Stein, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Cresset
Avy Stein, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Cresset

Cresset added two advisory teams to its San Francisco office that previously were with J.P. Morgan Wealth Management, where they collectively managed about $5 billion in assets for 160 households. Cresset is an independent, multi-family office and private investment firm with over $45 billion in assets under management (AUM) as of April 1.

The two advisor teams were with First Republic Bank prior to J.P. Morgan. One team is headed by Dagny Maidman, and includes 10 professionals who have worked together on average for over 10 years. The other advisor team of five tenured investment professionals is headed by Chris Chase and Erik Ralston, who each have over 20 years of industry experience.

“These entrepreneurial teams are a great cultural fit for Cresset and share our values,” said Avy Stein, Cresset Co-Founder and Co-Chairman. “Like Cresset, they have a client-first, fiduciary mindset and work closely with their clients and their advisors to provide comprehensive, highly individualized solutions that successful families expect and deserve.”

4. Citizens Recruits 12-Member Team With $5 Billion From J.P. Morgan

Brendan Coughlin, Vice Chair and Head of Consumer Banking, Citizens
Brendan Coughlin, Vice Chair and Head of Consumer Banking, Citizens

Citizens Private Wealth, a division of Citizens Financial Group, recruited a 12-person team that came from J.P. Morgan due to that firm’s 2023 acquisition of First Republic Bank. Prior to its most recent move, the team managed over $5 billion.

Senior Managing Director Hugh Beecher, Senior Managing Director Richard Gordon and Managing Director Drew Curto have all been on the America’s Top Wealth Advisors list by Forbes. Their team, BG Wealth Partners, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and focuses on serving ultra-high net worth clients. Citizens also recently appointed Paul Casey as Head of Wealth Management, effective July 9.

“We are excited to bring aboard one of the top California-based wealth teams to Citizens Private Wealth as we look to grow our business and better serve our clients,” said Brendan Coughlin, Vice Chair and Head of Consumer Banking at Citizens.

5. LPL Announces Onboarding Of 4 Advisors With $1.4 Billion, In Same Week

Scott Posner, Executive Vice President, Business Development, LPL Financial
Scott Posner, Executive Vice President, Business Development, LPL Financial

Within the same week, LPL Financial announced the onboarding of four advisors whose combined practices manage approximately $1.4 billion. Midland, Texas-based Clayton Ortloff came from Merrill Lynch, where he oversaw $800 million, to launch Heritage Private Wealth, affiliating with the supported independence model LPL Strategic Wealth Services.

Lewes, Delaware-based Chris Mukoda, Brad Travis, Jr., and David Crouse came from PNC Investments, where they oversaw $415 million, to align with Momentum Wealth Partners and launch Sussex Wealth Partners. Highlands, North Carolina-based Justin Souma returned to LPL from Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., where he managed $190 million, to launch Hickory Ridge Wealth Advisors.

“At LPL, we are committed to helping advisors visualize and build their perfect practice by offering streamlined and integrated business solutions and personalized support to help them create an elevated experience for their clients,” said Scott Posner, Executive Vice President, Business Development at LPL.

Strategic Partnerships

6. Essential Edge Adds Industry Veteran Alex David To Advisory Board

Essential Edge Compliance Outsourcing Services, which serves broker-dealers and RIAs, has named Alex David, Division Director at Raymond James Financial Services, to its Advisory Board. The appointment of David comes shortly after a February statement announcing the creation of the board and introducing its inaugural members.

David served as President and CEO of Stifel Independent Advisors prior to joining Raymond James in the first quarter of 2024. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Financial Services Institute and is Chair Emeritus of the Association of African American Financial Advisors.

Alex David, Division Director, Raymond James Financial Services and Sander Ressler, Co-Owner and Managing Director, Essential Edge
Alex David, Division Director, Raymond James Financial Services and Sander Ressler, Co-Owner and Managing Director, Essential Edge

“I’m thrilled to welcome Alex to our already distinguished Advisory Board, which has been instrumental in providing thoughtful guidance and impactful insights to the Essential Edge leadership team,” said Sander Ressler, Co-Owner and Managing Director. “The firm’s mandate – to provide top-tier, outsourced regulatory and compliance support to wealth management enterprises – is more important than ever in our evolving and highly regulated industry,” David said.

Promotions & People Moves

7. Concurrent Appoints Bo Ellison As CFO, 3 Others To Key Strategic Positions

Nate Lenz, CEO and Co-Founder of Concurrent Investment Advisors
Nate Lenz, CEO and Co-Founder of Concurrent Investment Advisors

The multi-custodial hybrid RIA Concurrent Investment Advisors appointed Bo Ellison as Chief Financial Officer; Joe Mooney as Managing Director, Advisor Engagement and Enterprise Development; Kerry McDermott as Vice President, Program Development, Strategy, & Growth; and Matthew Unger as Vice President, Head of Centralized Wealth Advisory Services.

Ellison previously was Divisional Controller, Retirement Services at Creative Planning. Mooney previously managed the East Coast custody sales team at Fidelity. McDermott previously led the strategic referral program at Wealth Enhancement Group. Unger previously was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs and a Risk Management Advisor at United Capital.

“We’re not immune to the demographic issues our industry faces,” said Nate Lenz, CEO of Concurrent. “We’re investing in the next generation now, so our advisors can sustain their business 15 or 20 years from now.”

8. Carson Group Appoints Daniel Applegarth As CFO, Eric Vrba As Controller

Omaha, Nebraska-based Carson Group appointed Daniel Applegarth as Chief Financial Officer and Eric Vrba as Controller. Ron Carson recently stepped down as CEO to become Chairman, with Chief Strategy Officer Burt White becoming the new CEO. Ron Carson founded the firm in 1983.

Applegarth previously spent 18 years at Orion Advisor Solutions and its predecessor firms, most recently as CFO. Vrba was Assistant Controller at Orion from 2016 to 2022, and Controller of City+Ventures from 2022 to 2024. Carson Group manages $35.5 billion in AUM and serves more than 50,000 families.

Daniel Applegarth, CFO (left), and Eric Vrba, Controller, Carson Group
Daniel Applegarth, CFO (left), and Eric Vrba, Controller, Carson Group

“Joining Carson offers an incredible opportunity to bring my expertise to a team that’s known for its forward-thinking approach,” Applegarth said. “Carson’s strong reputation in the financial services industry and the Omaha community makes it a perfect place for me to thrive both personally and professionally,” Vrba said.

9. Homrich Berg Appoints Head Of Corporate Development, Chief Advisor Officer

Andrew Page, Head of Corporate Development, Homrich Berg
Andrew Page, Head of Corporate Development, Homrich Berg

Atlanta-based Homrich Berg (HB), an RIA with over $16 billion in client assets across more than 3,500 family relationships nationwide, appointed Andrew Page as Head of Corporate Development. A few weeks earlier, HB appointed Michael A. Woocher as Chief Advisory Officer.

Most recently, Page led M&A efforts and other strategic initiatives as a Director and Partner at Ancora Holdings Group. Before that, he was a member of the investment team at Focus Financial Partners. Woocher previously was Managing Director and Wealth Advisor at Bernstein Private Wealth Management, leading its Atlanta office. Before that, he worked at SunTrust Bank and its ultra-high net worth multi-family office affiliate, GenSpring Family Offices.

“Homrich Berg planted its flag 35 years ago in fee-only, fiduciary service and has built a reputation as one of the industry’s leading firms. Its commitment to holistic client service is a powerful starting point for any acquisition or partnership,” Page said. “The management team here is excellent, and HB’s thoughtful approach to growth creates a strong foundation for future strategic acquisitions.”

10. Cetera Appoints Michael Molnar As Head of Corporate Development

Michael Molnar, Head of Corporate Development, Cetera
Michael Molnar, Head of Corporate Development, Cetera

Cetera Financial Group appointed Michael Molnar as Head of Corporate Development. He has nearly 30 years of experience. Molnar previously led corporate development, M&A and succession planning for Avantax, which Cetera acquired in November.

While at Avantax, Molnar helped arrange more than 20 acquisitions that contributed to Avantax  nearly doubling the size of its employee-based RIA. In his new role, Molnar will focus on Cetera’s inorganic growth strategy. Prior to Avantax, he was a buy-side investor, investment banker, sell-side equity analyst, strategy consultant and a CPA in public accounting.

“I couldn’t be happier to build on Cetera’s momentum by blending in the success we’ve had at Avantax,” Molnar said. “Cetera has multiple opportunities for growth and I look forward to working closely with Cetera’s leadership, board and our strategic partners at Genstar Capital to help Cetera realize its full potential.”

Wirehouse Activity

11. Merrill Recruits 12-Member Team With $3.5 Billion From J.P. Morgan

Merrill recruited a $3.5 billion, 12-member team from J.P. Morgan, which joined that firm due to its 2023 acquisition of First Republic Bank. Salvatore Tiano and John Smyth lead the team, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Tiano has over 33 years of experience and Smyth has over 20 years of experience.

Its other advisors include Greg Saville, Daniel Tumba, Justin Makso and Jason O’Brien. They are joined by Client Associates Kristin Kochanski, Danielle Rojas, Elena Saveleva, Lina Hued, Hannah Foster and Lou Ventura.

Since the collapse of First Republic during the 2023 regional banking crisis, financial professionals who worked there at the time have since joined a multitude of other firms, including NewEdge, Modern Wealth Management and AllianceBernstein.

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

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