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Mindy Diamond on Independence: What a Move from Merrill Is Really Like

Scott Bills considered himself a Merrill lifer. But as the firm changed and the desire to build a brand and better serve their clients grew stronger, he and his team decided to make the leap to independence, launching Nilsine Partners.

A lot of advisors we speak with on this series and in the course of our business share how they never thought they’d leave their firm.

Then, as is a fact of life, things change. That is, both the firm and the advisor may shift their priorities in ways that are no longer congruent.

And for the advisor, the firm that once served as the foundation for growth of the business no longer seems to be the right fit.

Such was the case of Scott Bills. He considered himself a Merrill lifer—someone who thought he and his team would never leave.

For Scott, his Merrill story started back in 2005, when he joined the firm. It was a family business that included his father (who retired a decade ago), his brother Brett, and their team.

Together they grew an astounding business to nearly $2 billion in assets under management.

But, over time, they recognized things were changing at the firm. And while they craved greater freedom, they were feeling stuck by loyalty to Merrill—that is, until their loyalty to best serving their clients and business won out.

In September 2021, the Colorado-based team made the leap to independence with support from Dynasty Financial Partners and Schwab as their custodian.

In this episode, Scott and Mindy Diamond discuss the evolution of the Merrill team and their transition to launching independent firm Nilsine Partners, including:

  • The process of thinking through change—and the realities of making the leap to independence.
  • The pulls that motivated their decision to leave Merrill—and how the desire to build a business and a brand was stronger than their loyalty to the firm.
  • The pushes that led to consider change—and how mounting pressures to push Merrill products and limitations around what they could do for clients played a significant role in their decision.
  • Opting to shrink to grow—and why it made sense, strategically, to leave some clients behind.
  • Doing the math—and why it’s critical to understand the costs associated with being an employee vs. an independent.
  • Plus, Scott shares tangible examples of the differences he and his team found between the wirehouse world and independence—including the ability to be solutions-based and not product-driven.

It’s an episode with value for anyone considering change, as well as business owners who are looking to advance their practice to the next level—and beyond.

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