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RIA Roundup: Steward Partners Adds First Team on Pershing Platform

The trend of acquiring smaller firms continued in the RIA space this week. Steward Partners, Wealth Enhancement Group, Mission Wealth, Emigrant Partners, Mariner Wealth Advisors, Slate Hill Partners and Buckingham Strategic Wealth all got in on the action as more than $1 billion in assets changed hands.

Steward Partners, Wealth Enhancement Group, Mission Wealth, Buckingham Strategic Partners and Forward Financial all announced acquisitions this week, while Mariner Wealth and Savant Wealth brought on new talent to facilitate growth and Emigrant Partners and Slate Hill both took minority stakes in growing firms.

Steward Partners Adds H.L. Wiginton as First Team on Pershing Platform and First in Alabama

Steward Partners Global Advisory, an employee-owned, hybrid partnership of independent advisory firms, recruited its first team on the BNY Mellon | Pershing custodial platform—and its first in Alabama.

H.L. Wiginton Capital Management, a four-person team led by Mike Wiginton, brings around $220 million to the Steward platform from Cambridge Investment Research Advisors. Wiginton joined Cambridge in 2022 after 13 years with Cantella & Co., according to his SEC registration, following brief stints at Wachovia and A.G. Edwards & Sons.

"I launched H.L. Wiginton 13 years ago because I wanted to be able to offer my clients more than what was available to me in a wirehouse environment, and that's the same impetus behind my decision to join Steward Partners," he said in a statement. "In addition to having access to more effective technology and partners who can help us streamline and grow our practice, Steward Partners has a culture that matches our own by putting clients' interests at the forefront of everything we do."

The team includes Tom Ferrell, vice president and financial advisor; Luke Ferrell, financial advisor; and Kristi Alexander, office manager and sales assistant.

Launched in 2013 with one advisor and around $100 million in assets under management, Steward has since grown to more than $23 billion in client assets across more than 350 partners, primarily through the recruitment of breakaway wirehouse advisors.

Last fall, the firm secured a $140 million credit facility to expedite recruiting following the move to a multicustodial model, which CEO Greg Banasz said “opened up the floodgates” of new recruits.

“Look for a lot of action,” he said of the first half of 2023.

Wealth Enhancement Group Adds $371M Hybrid RIA Legacy Financial Planning

Wealth Enhancement Group, a Minneapolis-based aggregator of wealth management firms with more than $60.6 billion in total client assets, acquired Legacy Financial Planning—a hybrid RIA with offices in Rochester and Oswego, N.Y., and Naples, Fla.

With more than $371 million in client assets, including $87 million in held brokerage accounts, Legacy is led by co-founders CEO Tammy Mogilski and President Brian Bedford. Along with a team of three advisors and four support staff, the firm offers financial planning, investment management, retirement income planning, estate planning and life insurance planning to individuals nearing or in retirement.

"After many months of careful consideration in our search for the right strategic partner with a similar culture and proven history of growth and success, we are excited to partner with Wealth Enhancement Group,” Bedford said in a statement. “Their firm provides the resources we are looking for to take our services to the next level.”

“This partnership will provide their team with the resources and support needed to enable further professional growth and enhance the service that their clients receive,” said Jim Cahn, WEG’s chief investments and business development officer. “We look forward to collaborating with and learning from the team as we grow together.”

Advisor Growth Strategies, a management consulting and transaction advisory firm serving the RIA industry, served as Legacy Financial Planning's transaction advisor.

Founded in 1997, WEG now has over 85 offices serving 50,000 households nationwide. The firm has added more than $6 billion in assets since late September.

Mission Wealth Merges With Murphy Capital Advisors

Mission Wealth, a $5.3 billion RIA integrator out of Santa Barbara, Calif., announced a merger with Murphy Capital Advisors, a $110 million practice west of Phoenix.

Founded in 2005 by Matt Murphy, Murphy Capital provides boutique wealth management services for clients throughout Arizona and in Illinois. The firm will adopt Mission branding, per its acquisition model, and expand its capabilities in the Arizona market.

"I am thrilled to take my solo practice to a firm with such an impressive leadership team, quality support infrastructure, technology stack and a philosophy of putting clients first,” Murphy said in a statement. “I knew that merging with Mission Wealth would be the fiduciary and the right thing to do to help my clients and to continue to grow.”

Throughout his career, Murphy has held various leadership roles within the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the CFP Board, where he helped codify the fiduciary requirement for all CFP professionals, as well as served on the board of the Financial Planning Association’s Phoenix chapter.  

“Matt represents the highest ethical standards in our industry and has consistently led by example with his client-first, fiduciary approach,” said Mission President Dannell Stuart. “His numerous leadership roles with the CFP Board and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors are examples of his commitment to the financial planning profession.”

“After visiting his office in Arizona and meeting his family, Matt Murphy firmly represents the values and caring approach that serve as the foundation of Mission Wealth,” said Mission co-founder and Chief Impact Officer Seth Streeter. "I look forward to a thriving partnership together and to expanding our reach in the Phoenix region."

Founded in 2000, Mission serves more than 2,000 clients. Last summer, Streeter explained to podcaster Michael Kitces that the firm’s acquisition model is more of an “acquihire,” under which the firm is adding desirable talent through the M&A process. But it’s not Mission’s only growth gambit. In addition to offering scholarships through the CFP Board to support the development of young professionals, the firm is actively reaching out to bring together groups within its various communities.

“We definitely have clear plans as far as where the firm is going,” he told Kitces. “We want to be kind of thought leaders in these areas of impact with more values-based planning, values-based investing, doing community work.”

The goal is to reach $30 billion in assets within the next eight years, he said.

Mariner Wealth Advisors Hires Todd Cassler to Accelerate Growth Strategy

Mariner Wealth Advisors announced that Todd Cassler will join its Enterprise Leadership Team as the firm’s chief strategy and growth officer.

Cassler is joining Mariner following nearly two years of rapid expansion at the firm, during which more than 25 acquisitions were completed. He will be charged with building on the current trajectory as it continues to add new advisors and capabilities to its platform.

He joins Mariner from John Hancock and Manulife Investment Management, where he was president of financial institutions and advisory solutions and the head of institutional distribution for the U.S. and Europe. During 16 years with the firm, Cassler was responsible for sales, client service and relationship management for the RIA and the firm’s broker/dealer platform, as well as the bank trust, global financial institutions, insurance trust platform and more. His experience also includes roles as vice president at Neuberger Berman and national distribution development manager at American Skandia.

“I’ve known Todd for years, and I have the utmost respect for the impact he has had on the growth of John Hancock’s business,” Mariner CEO Marty Bicknell said in a statement. “Todd’s strong reputation and relationships within the industry will help us grow in new arenas and will complement the existing strengths of our Enterprise Leadership Team.

Cassler will lead organic and inorganic growth initiatives, including corporate development, advisor recruiting, referral partner programs, traditional business development, advisory solutions and specialty programs. His focus will be on driving enterprise growth across all business units, including its ultra-high-net-worth practice and the Mariner Advisor Network platform, while expanding services for existing clients.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the best and brightest in the industry,” said Cassler. “[Mariner] has shown tremendous growth and has an excellent track record of success, and I’m looking forward to playing a role in its next stage of expansion.”

Based in Mariner’s Dedham, Mass., office, Cassler’s first day was January 31.

Emigrant Partners Takes Stake in SteelPeak Wealth

Emigrant Partners made its second investment of the year with a strategic, nonvoting minority stake in SteelPeak Wealth, a hybrid RIA headquartered in Los Angeles, managing $2 billion in assets for over 1,700 clients.

The partnership will provide SteelPeak with capital and strategic resources to support the firm in its next phase of growth, according to the announcement.

"We were very deliberate in our selection process for a strategic partner—the cultural fit and alignment on our future vision was paramount, and maintaining our independence was essential,” SteelPeak CEO Reza Zamani said in a statement. “EP checked all the boxes. We believe they will help us to realize our growth objectives, across organic, M&A and advisor recruitment, faster.”

"We are thrilled to welcome the SteelPeak team to the Emigrant Partners network,” said Emigrant CEO and President Karl Heckenberg. “We were thoroughly impressed with their client engagement model, proprietary investment management capabilities and organic growth engine. SteelPeak is well positioned for future growth with a strong base in the Southern California market, and a growing presence in attractive wealth markets such as Dallas and Miami.”

"At this stage of our growth, we are looking to continue to enhance our capabilities for our clients and expand our footprint," added SteelPeak CIO Maziar Esmailbeigi. "EP has a proven track record of helping their partner firms differentiate and deliver client outcomes to a broader, national client base."

Emigrant Partners is owned by Emigrant Bank and is currently invested in 19 firms overseeing more than $86 billion in aggregate assets. The firm’s investment model allows partners to retain control over strategy, investment decisions and day-to-day operations, according to the announcement.

Forward Financial Joins Grove Point for Marketing, Investments and Open Architecture

Grove Point Financial, a broker/dealer and investment advisory platform in Rockland, Md., announced the addition of Forward Financial, a Baltimore-based firm managing $34 million in assets.

Headed by Aaron Polun, Forward Financial offers fee-based planning and wealth and investment management to individuals undergoing key life events, such as retirement, divorce or a career change.

“As an experienced financial professional, Aaron is committed to helping his clients on the path to financial success, particularly during challenging times in their lives,” said Rob Engle, Grove Point’s executive VP of business development. “We look forward to partnering with him as we acclimate Forward Financial into our culture of service and support.”

The move to Grove Point was driven by a desire to utilize the firm’s open-architecture platform, investment options, marketing and expanded services, according to the announcement. Forward will leverage Grove Point’s resources to reach more clients, while Polun remains independent. Forward Financial plans to grow across Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the Washington, D.C., metro area by attracting more fee-based and investment management clients.

A subsidiary of Kestra Holdings, Grove Point Financial provides broker/dealer and RIA services to more than 500 financial professionals nationwide.

Buckingham Strategic Wealth Opens Two New Offices

Buckingham Strategic Wealth announced the official openings of its 49th and 50th locations with the addition of Oxford Financial Partners in the metro Cincinnati area and Convergent Financial Strategies in Philadelphia.

Both teams have adopted Buckingham branding but have maintained their individual SEC registrations.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to expand our national footprint and connect with even more families,” Buckingham wrote in a LinkedIn post Thursday.

Run by Managing Director Alan Schapire and CIO Carl Nadwodny, the Convergent team oversees approximately $174 million in client assets across 85 clients. The deal was first announced in December.

“Buckingham and Convergent share tremendous synergies,” said Buckingham CEO Adam Birenbaum. “Just like us, they are dedicated to providing clients with a high-touch, personalized experience every step of the way. Their tax preparation and planning expertise is a great addition to Buckingham’s wealth of knowledge.

"By partnering with Buckingham, we are able to broaden our collective wisdom and resources to support our clients for years to come,” said Nadwodny.

The Oxford acquisition, announced earlier this month, adds another $278 million in assets managed by Erik Christman and his team.

“By joining Buckingham, we can draw from their expansive resources, talent and national footprint to positively impact the lives of our clients now and in the future,” Christman sad, “all while retaining the personalization of a local firm.”

“The team at Oxford is driven by a people-first philosophy,” said Birenbaum. “We look forward to leveraging our operational scale to add to their high-touch wealth management experience and to establishing our footprint in the metro Cincinnati area and beyond.”

Headquartered in St. Louis, Buckingham Strategic Wealth manages around $20 billion in regulatory assets under management.

In other M&A news …

Savant Wealth hired a new head of M&A away from competitor The Mather Group, and Slate Hill acquired a minority stake in XO Wealth Management.

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