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Diamond Podcast for Financial Advisors: Ex-Merrill Advisor on Going from Practice to Firm to $4B Enterprise

Brett Bernstein realized that he could not achieve his vision and goals within the wirehouse world. So he set out to build his own practice. When he outgrew that, he built a firm. Now, he’s building an enterprise.

Growth is not something that happens by chance.

It is the result of just the right combination of vision, strategic planning, determination, and the ability to act upon each.

Brett Bernstein is one such advisor who, just a couple of years after becoming a licensed broker at Merrill, recognized he wanted more latitude in how he could build and grow his business.

That is, it seemed more difficult to achieve his goals as one of thousands in a large firm that has no choice but to manage to the lowest common denominator.

No doubt, the wirehouses provide the support, platforms, and tech stacks that serve most advisors and their clients well, but they’re not for everyone.

As one of the latter group, Brett and his team moved on to LPL Financial in 2004—a firm that looked very different than it does today—where they grew the business to some $550 million in assets. But, as Brett put it, they outgrew the broker/dealer model they were in.

In 2016, Brett and his team took the next big leap to independence, partnering with Focus Financial.

For Brett, the steps represented what he describes as moving from building a practice, then a firm, and now an enterprise. Each with a goal of putting the right pieces in place to impact growth.

And when it comes to growth, it’s pretty clear Brett and his team knows what they’re doing: Today, XML Financial Group (a name that’s derived from “ex-Merrill Lynch”) has client assets in the range of $4 billion.

In this episode, Mindy and Brett have a candid conversation about what it really takes to grow, including:

  • The limitations he felt that kept him from thriving—and how he resolved them through the transitions.
  • The decision to forgo a recruiting deal from another big firm—and whether that decision had an impact on his bottom line.
  • The value that Focus Financial brings to the table—and why he refers to them as their horsepower to help turbocharge growth.
  • The story behind the firm’s name—and how it plays into their culture and value proposition.
  • And much more!

It’s a real-world narrative around what it takes to really grow and thrive in the wealth management industry with plenty of actionable advice from an industry peer.

Download a transcript of this episode…

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Listen to more episodes of Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Podcast for Financial Advisors Considering Change


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