A $600 million in assets team in Chicago has joined HighTower Advisors LLC from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.
Led by Eugene Lerner and operating under The Lerner Group name, the team includes Walter Gondeck Jr. and Mingdong Tan. The practice serves higher-net-worth individuals.
"HighTower gives us the option to have multiple custodians and use them to the advantage of clients," Mr. Gondeck said.
"We can reduce pricing, and the fixed-income and trading desks are not profit centers, so we can act as true fiduciaries," he said. "That was the major reason to leave the wirehouse."
MSSB spokeswoman Christine Pollack declined to comment on the move. But the team's exit marks a return to its roots as an independent practice. For 20 years, Mr. Lerner ran his own advisory shop, Disciplined Investment Advisors Inc., which ran institutional money. But the "technology passed us by," Mr. Lerner said, so in 2001, he brought his business to Morgan Stanley.
Mr. Gondeck said the group left MSSB under provisions in the recruitment protocol and so far has not run into legal issues, "knock on wood."
The members spent the weekend contacting clients, he added, and received positive reaction.
The Lerner Group uses JPMorgan Chase & Co. as its primary custodian, along with Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services and Schwab Advisor Services.