Morgan Stanley Scores Brokers in New York, Loses Them in Utah
A pair of Merrill Lynch brokers in Garden City, New York, with 73 years of collective experience at the firm moved to a nearby branch of Morgan Stanley last Friday, seven days after Morgan Stanley lost its biggest advisory account team in Utah to independence.
Jay B. Grossman and Damon Silverstein, who respectively began their Merrill careers in 1978 and 1982, were in the firm’s private banking and investment group for clients with at least $10 million in assets, according to Silverstein’s former web page at Merrill. Their team, known as the GSS Group, includes four advisors and four sales associates, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed.
The group generated around $4 million of revenue for Merrill last year, according to a source at Morgan Stanley who was not authorized to speak for the firm.
Silverstein and Grossman, whose son Gabriel joined the team in 2013 and sports Merrill as his middle name, did not return calls for comment. The fourth advisor on the team is Abbe Spector, who had been with Merrill for 27 years, according to BrokerCheck.
At their new 1300 Franklin Avenue Morgan Stanley branch, a stone’s throw from Merrill’s 1325 Franklin Ave. address, they are joining a number of former colleagues who made the same journey in recent years.
Thomas Cassano moved in March after spending his 30-year career at Merrill. Others in the parade included Richard Schwamb and John O’Day, who jumped in March 2015 after 15 years at Merrill, Ray George, who moved in October 2014 after 23 years, and Charlie Eschmann, a 26-year member of the Thundering Herder who roamed to Morgan Stanley in November 2013.
“There are now more Merrill people in the Morgan Stanley office than there are Morgan Stanley people,” said the source.
While Morgan Stanley gained in Long Island, its force of experienced advisors at its Salt Lake City complex in Utah continued to shrink. The Collins Group, three advisors who were managing $380 million for about 450 household accounts, left the wirehouse’s Holladay/Cottonwood office to set up as an independent registered advisory firm, according to Brady Harker Ririe, the junior member of the team.
The team, which has set up as Divergent Wealth Advisors in Midvale, Utah, is led by Richard E. Collins, who began his career as a licensed broker with Denver-based Bettcher & Co. in 1987 and arrived at Morgan Stanley by way of Smith Barney, which he joined in 1993.
Rounding out the group is Jordan Collins, who affiliated with his father at Smith Barney in 2006, along with two newly hired support staff members.
“We are extremely financial planning-centric, and believe we can offer additional services and grow our brand more easily outside of Morgan Stanley,” Ririe said, noting that all three of the advisors are certified financial planners and virtually 100% fee-based.
The team was partly motivated by the fact that the wirehouse had told it to phase out the Cheshire Wealth Management financial planning software it had used at Smith Barney, he said, which they prefer out of familiarity and their belief in its superiority to Morgan Stanley’s “LifeView” planning product. He conceded that they were among the last teams to use the legacy software.
“To Morgan Stanley’s credit, they are trying to move in the direction of helping clients by becoming fiduciaries on retirement accounts, but we wanted to be true fiduciaries across the board,” he said.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed their move but declined further comment.
The Collins team is using Fidelity Investment Services as its custodian, after flirting with Charles Schwab and HighTower Advisors, in part because of its E-money financial planning software that integrates easily with LifeView, Ririe said. He declined to discuss whether the Collinses moved were related to expiration of retention agreements received when Morgan Stanley bought Smith Barney in 2009.
They are parking their brokerage licenses with Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments to collect trails and incidental brokerage revenue.
For Morgan Stanley, the exit of the Collinses is the fourth large team to have left the Utah complex in the last 18 months. (Ririe said they were the largest remaining team in the state as measured by client assets under management.) A six-person team led by Clifford Coury that managed about $386 million of client money joined Wells Fargo Advisors in September two months after another pair of brokers in Utah left for Ameriprise. The exodus at the complex began when senior broker Bob Webster, a legacy Morgan Stanley Dean Witter advisor since 1992, joined UBS Financial Services’ Salt Lake office with his team in October 2015.