A $300 million Morgan Stanley Smith Barney team has left the wirehouse for the greener pastures of LPL Financial, their IBD, and Fidelity, their custodian. The move is the latest example of the breakaway broker trend.
The diaspora out of the wirehouses and into IBDs or RIAs is a much-talked about phenomenon, one that’s been highly debated. But teams like this one show it is alive and well. Just this week, another MSSB advisor jumped ship to join Washington Wealth Management, an RIA in California.
Neal McNeil III, founding partner Ibis Capital, the new LPL team based in San Diego, Calif., said the decision to leave the wirehouse came down to the open architecture and autonomy of the hybrid independent model. The team wanted to be able to go into different types of investments, and not have to sell products that were proprietary or from one platform. They also wanted better performance reporting software and retirement planning software.
But the team also runs three quantitative models, and MSSB had restrictions on what they could do within these models, hindering performance, McNeil said. In particular, MSSB restricted the use of certain ETFs and ETNs, which make up two/thirds of these strategies. The models, which are absolute return strategies, include a stock and commodities portfolio, the Opportunities Portfolio; a bond portfolio, the Preservation Portfolio; and a go-anywhere type of portfolio, the Ibis Portfolio. The team hasn’t pursued it yet, but they have considered putting the quant models on LPL’s or Fidelity’s platform.
Ibis also runs a hedge fund of funds, which accounts for one-third of the firm’s assets. At MSSB, there was extra scrutiny around more esoteric products, including such hedge funds, McNeil said.
Lately, some advisors are breaking away and going independent because of the restrictive policies at the wirehouses. Take John Beirne Jr. for example, who left Merrill in February and spoke with Senior Editor Jerry Gleeson.
The Ibis team also wanted to get away from the headline risk of the wirehouses, which had issues in 2008. In contrast, LPL never showed up in the newspapers in 2008, and Fidelity never took any TARP money, McNeil said. At the end of the day, they felt these were the two safest places to put their clients’ money.
McNeil said the team, which also includes partners Robert Meyer and Ryan Clive-Smith, considered going pure RIA. But the hybrid model allowed them to keep certain investments they wouldn’t be able to do under the fee-only model, including annuities and insurance. This makes up about 10 percent of their business.