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Laura Ward

$2B First Republic Team Joins William Blair

Laura Ward is joining William Blair as a managing director and wealth advisor out of San Francisco a month after her previous firm collapsed and was acquired by JPMorgan Chase.

A former First Republic advisory team that managed more than $2 billion in assets is leaving the recently acquired bank to build out William Blair’s private wealth offerings in San Francisco.

Laura Ward is joining as a managing director and wealth advisor after leaving First Republic on May 3. She leads a four-person team including senior investment specialist John Cella, senior client relationship associate Lisa Kwong and client relationship associate Josh McDaniel.

Ward worked at Smith Barney and E.F. Hutton before joining First Republic, and has almost four decades of industry experience. She lauded William Blair's “strong balance sheet and a staunch commitment to advisor-led management” as a reason for making the move.

The team’s transition to William Blair follows a tumultuous few months for the San Francisco–based First Republic, resulting in its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase last month. After Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in early March, a number of institutions, including First Republic, felt the pinch. 

A March deal with 11 large institutions injected $30 billion in deposits to the lender, but over time the price of the bank's shares continued to drop, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation opened bidding for it in mid-May, with JPMorgan beating out potential competitors like PNC Bank. First Republic and SVB’s March fall became the first- and second-largest bank collapses since the 2008 crash.

But First Republic employees are not entering the JPMorgan fold without difficulty, if at all. The acquirer recently revealed about 1,000 First Republic Bank employees wouldn’t get full-time or transitory jobs following the acquisition (JPMorgan offered full-time or transitory roles to about 85% of the First Republic team following the deal). 

Advisors also fled the flailing bank before and after its collapse, with one advisor rejoining Morgan Stanley after they left the wirehouse for First Republic in early March. RBC attracted numerous teams to join from First Republic, including several out of Newport Beach, Calif., while other advisors left for UBS and Rockefeller; JPMorgan even attracted some advisors before the May deal transpired.

Many advisors could bristle at joining such a large firm, as a analysis found more than half of advisors at First Republic joined the bank from one of the four wirehouses. Industry attorneys and recruiters worried those advisors were attracted to First Republic by the promise of an autonomy that might dissipate when joining JPMorgan.

A three-person team led by twin brothers Mark Warren and John Warren joined William Blair from Morgan Stanley, managing about $425 million in client assets. The advisors are moving along with senior client relationship associate Cindy Rosendale; the duo worked at Citigroup before Morgan Stanley and were excited about the “robust, independent platform” William Blair offers advisors.

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