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Mindy Diamond on Independence: Why a Former Leader Left the Herd for Independence

Greg Franks shares the story of his own leap to independence in 2011 from a ranking position at Merrill to the role of managing partner, president and COO of Snowden Lane Partners.


Ten years ago, the thought of going independent was anathema to most advisors—and almost completely unheard of for a senior leader of a firm like Merrill Lynch.

But to Greg Franks, the “bankifying” of Merrill – the firm that he served at for nearly 3 decades – was nothing short of “tragic.”

In this episode, Greg talks about how initial optimism around the positives that Bank of America brought to the firm quickly turned to a battle that management fought in the background.

Yet he speaks highly of his tenure there, serving in senior leadership positions in the US, Europe, and the Middle East where he also served as the Western Division Director, Mid-Atlantic Division Director and Regional Managing Director.

And as a Managing Director with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, he was responsible for over 5,000 advisors, $450B in client assets and $4B in annual revenue.

But it was a cultural shift that was being imposed by the bank – such as increasing minimum account sizes, cross-selling products and diminishing control that advisors had – that he and other fellow Merrill leaders, including Lyle LaMothe, who ran all of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, could no longer stand behind.

Today, Greg shares the story of his own leap to independence in 2011 from a ranking position at Merrill to the role of Managing Partner, President and COO of Snowden Lane Partners, including:

  • What was going on at Merrill that motivated him to leave—and how those changes continue to impact the firm and influences the genesis of new models in the industry landscape.
  • Leaving the wirehouse and vetting other opportunities from top firms—and why he felt they were all very much the same.
  • The importance of starting out in the business as an advisor—and how that experience helped him develop a great deal of empathy and deep understanding of the role.
  • His investment in the firm started by the former Business Risk Officer for Merrill, Rob Mooney—and how the experience he and his partners had at Merrill defines Snowden’s culture and value proposition today.
  • What he sees as the real value of independence to a financial advisor—and how the freedoms associated with business ownership can be “intoxicating.”
  • What makes the firm stand apart from others in the boutique space—and how a model like Snowden’s differs from what he left behind in the wirehouse world.

While we often hear the advisor’s perspective of changes within the brokerage world, it’s even more powerful to gain the point of view from management and to understand what led up to those changes—that is, the behind-the-scenes fight to retain the freedoms that advisors once had. But as Greg shared, “It was a losing battle.”

It’s an episode that gives an exclusive look behind the curtain – a first-hand perspective of a changing wealth management industry – with valuable insights for anyone who works in it.

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.

Mindy Diamond is 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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