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Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Former Merrill Lifer on Why Even Long-Tenured Advisors Can Benefit From Breaking Away

As a former Merrill ACTM chairperson, Andy Ferguson had an acute view of the changes taking place at the firm. He shares how that influenced his decision to opt for independence over Merrill’s retire-in-place program.

Most advisors we speak with think independence is just for those with a long runway ahead of them.

Yet that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is that many long-tenured advisors in the brokerage world come to a crossroads in their career: Sign on to their firm’s retire-in-place program or consider other options.

While taking a recruitment deal from another firm is certainly a path, many recognize that there is a bigger picture to consider: Their firm may not be serving them and their clients best now and is not likely to do so in the future.

Their perspective is that independence allows them to build their legacy how they see fit and unencumbered by a big firm agenda.

Andy Ferguson is one such advisor who, after nearly four decades at Merrill, decided he didn’t like where the firm was heading. And Andy had a bird’s eye view of the changes that Merrill went through over the years, having served as chairperson of the Merrill Lynch Advisory Council to Management (ACTM), advising the senior management on issues affecting clients worldwide.

So signing on to the firm’s retire-in-place program and locking the business in for the longer term wasn’t how Andy envisioned his legacy.

In August 2020, during the pandemic shutdown, Andy and his team launched Proquility Private Wealth Partners in Las Vegas, with support from Dynasty Financial Partners and Fidelity Clearing and Custody as their custodian.

In this episode, Andy shares his story with Mindy Diamond, including:

  • The changes he saw at Merrill—and how that motivated him to consider his options.
  • The real value of a retire-in-place program—and why Andy saw greater benefit in going independent.
  • The option to launch an independent firm—and why he feels even tenured advisors can benefit more by breaking away.
  • The realities of the transition process—and what he learned along the way.
  • The opportunity to “shrink to grow”—and why he chose to leave a handful of relationships behind.

Andy could have taken the path of least resistance: sign on to Merrill’s retire-in-place program and monetize his life’s work at the end of the day. But for him, the decision was an easy one. That is, Andy wanted to ensure that when that day came, he answered to just one constituency: his clients. And the only way to do that was by launching his own independent practice.

It’s a “reality check” episode for all advisors who are considering their future.

Download a transcript of this episode…

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