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Independence for Advisors with an Offshore Client Base

A conversation with Merrill Lynch Breakaway Lisa van Walleghem, CEO and founder of MAXIMAI Investment Partners.


The growth of independence has been fueled in part by the many advisors who’ve reached a point at their wirehouses where they can no longer serve their clients’ interests to the best of their abilities. And for advisors whose businesses are more specialized, the limitations imposed by their firms can put them at an even greater disadvantage, as this episode’s guest found.

Lisa van Walleghem was a Merrill Lynch advisor for over two decades. She joined the wirehouse back in 1992, bringing with her a globally-diversified book of business composed of high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients from around the world. At the time, she felt that the firm was the right home to continue to grow her well-established international business.

Then things started to change with the Bank of America takeover of Merrill. The firm shutdown international branches and asked advisors with offshore clients like Lisa to close accounts in certain jurisdictions.

Lisa grew uncomfortable with the increasing limitations placed on her and her team and knew it was time to make some tough decisions. In 2016, she and her longtime partner at Merrill, plus a few key support people, left the firm to form MAXIMAI Investment Partners based in Coral Gables, Fla.

In this episode, Lisa discusses:

  • The motivations behind her move from Merrill—and what led up to deciding it was finally time to make a change.
  • Why independence was ultimately the right choice—and if she even considered other firms or models.
  • The unique needs of serving an offshore client base—and how other advisors with similar business requirements might benefit by due diligence.
  • How her partner, who was nearing retirement, came to terms with forgoing Merrill’s CTP—and how that was resolved as an independent firm.
  • Why an international business may be best served in the independent space—and what other “heavy lifting” an advisor considering a move should be aware of.
  • The impact on her offshore client base—and how the clients reacted to the news of her team leaving Merrill.

Lisa felt that Merrill was once a firm that welcomed international business like hers and served as a “great school of experience.” But with the takeover, she started to lose her voice as a financial advisor—and that was when she knew it was time to make a change. She shares that going independent has helped her regain her voice and once again, control her destiny.

Whether you serve an offshore client base like Lisa or are simply curious about how an advisor can create positive change in her business and her life, this is an episode to listen to.

Listen to the podcast

Browse more episodes in this podcast series. ... 

Mindy Diamond is President & CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.

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