If you opened up a copy of BusinessWeek just two weeks ago and bothered to glance through the ads, you’d see a picture of $2.3 million producer Peter Sargent featured in Merrill Lynch’s ‘The Power of the Right Advisor’ campaign. He was also chairman of the wirehouse’s advisory council. But today, you’ll find Sargent at regional firm Janney Montgomery Scott in Yardley, Pa., having recently jumped ship after 20 years with Merrill.
Sargent, who has $250 million in assets, said he wanted to move to a firm that was more entrepreneurial in nature and allowed for more flexibility. He still wanted to be a part of a fairly large firm that had scale, but yet small enough to remain nimble and be open to his ideas.
“Merrill Lynch, which has always been a big organization, is now part of an even bigger organization,” Sargent said, speaking of the firm’s acquisition by Bank of America. “Sometimes with that comes risk and control and processes, and a lot of that’s regulatory driven.
“How do you get free spirit plugged into a really, really large organization, that’s all about processes and command and control and organization? They’re sort of diametrically opposed.”
Sargent said Janney will be a place he can more easily make decisions faster than Merrill would allow. “If I’ve ever been accused of too much caffeine and too much sugar, that’s a very accurate statement,” he said. “I’m a Captain Crunch and coffee guy.”
Jerry Lombard, president of Janney’s Private Client Group, said the typical Janney advisor has at least $60 million in assets and $500,000 in production; Sargent is much bigger. About 90 percent of the firm’s new recruits come from the wirehouses, and the firm expects to bring on 35 new FAs this year, Lombard said. So far this year, Janney has recruited seven new advisors, all from the wires. The firm has a total of 725 FAs and 1,800 employees.
Many of the regional firms have been reeling in wirehouse advisors frustrated with the instability of their firms and top-down control structures that the big banks are putting in place. The cost-cutting efforts at some of the wirehouses are also affecting support to FAs, Lombard said.