A new advisory firm with an old money name and headed by wirehouse talent is hoping to catch a ride on a wave of brokers exiting Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

“I don’t know a single person in that environment who isn’t exploring their options. The opportunity is so great for us to attract top advisors from the major firms,” says Chris Dupuy, the new COO of Rockefeller Capital Management.

The timing may be fortuitous. So far this year, more than 470 advisors overseeing $66 billion in assets have exited the wirehouses to join smaller regional and independent firms, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records and hiring data analyzed by Financial Planning.

Disillusionment with conditions at Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, UBS and Morgan Stanley and the appeal of the Rockefeller brand name (and capital) will win over brokers, Dupuy says.

Dupuy is also a wirehouse exile. The former Merrill Lynch executive spent 29 years at the wirehouse before moving in 2014 to Focus Financial where he oversaw the aggregator’s efforts to convince wirehouse brokers to go independent.

Wirehouse brokers are “highly frustrated,” according to Dupuy, as their employers “homogenize” their offerings and limit advisors options and creativity.

Rockefeller Capital was formed last year by Rockefeller Financial Services to expand the company’s presence in the high-net-worth and ultrahigh-net-worth retail market. Greg Fleming, a veteran wirehouse executive with stints at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, was brought in as CEO.

The firm’s pitch will center on the prestige of the Rockefeller name, an aggressive national build-out and a new platform for advisors with trust and family office services. In addition, Rockefeller’s deep pockets will allow the firm to be “really competitive” when it comes to recruiting advisors with large books of business, Dupuy says.

Asked about how payouts will be structured, Dupuy said any discussion with brokers that began with payouts tended to end badly. Cultural fit comes first he said, followed by financial details.

To be sure, competition for top-tier wirehouse advisors is fierce. Regional brokerage firms have been particularly successful in hiring disaffected wirehouse brokers, picking up more than 350 advisors from the big four firms so far this year, according to Financial Planning data.

Rockefeller will also be competing in a very different recruiting environment as both Morgan Stanley and UBS have left the Broker Protocol, an industrywide agreement that permitted advisors who switched employers to take basic client contact information with them.

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Rockefeller Capital will “get a serious look" from wirehouse advisors says recruiter Mark Elzweig.

Nonetheless, recruiter Mark Elzweig believes Rockefeller Capital will “get a serious look.”

The firm’s timing is “very good,” Elzweig says. “They are coming on the scene when wirehouse advisors are looking for alternative vehicles. There’s a hunger to affiliate with organizations that are smaller and more flexible. It also helps that Rockefeller has a good name and leaders that came from and understand the wirehouse world.”

But the key to Rockefeller’s success – or lack of – will be “the resources they roll out compared to what the advisors have now,” Elzweig warns. “It all depends on the platform they put together.”

In addition to wirehouse brokers, Rockefeller is also recruiting top advisors from RIAs, scoring a big name when they poached Michael Bapis and his billion dollar team from HighTower Advisors in September.

Dupuy, who is based in San Francisco, says he is in the process of opening an office there and will also will be looking at Los Angeles.

Rockefeller would eventually like to create a half dozen “hubs” in major markets around the country, Dupuy says.


Charles Paikert

Charles Paikert

Charles Paikert is a senior editor at Financial Planning. Follow him on Twitter at @paikert.

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