Boutique lands two veteran teams from Merrill

Snowden snags pair of big teams of the thundering herd

By Andrew Osterland

Nov 28, 2012 @ 3:41 pm (Updated 4:04 pm) EST

Merrill Lynch

Snowden Capital Advisors LLC, a small, independent advisory firm based in New York City, has landed two large teams of Merrill Lynch advisers. Between them, the pair manage more than $500 million.

John DiCiaccio spent nearly three decades at Merrill and his partner Leah Thomson Snell joined Merrill in 2000. The team of Luis Gonzalez and Jon Lamothe has 30 years of combined tenure at Merrill. Mr. LaMothe is the brother of Lyle LaMothe, the former head of Merrill's brokerage unit who now is an investor and strategic adviser to Snowden. The four advisers were all made partners in the firm and together will open a new office for Snowden in Pasadena, Ca.

“These two teams are deeply experienced and we're very excited to have them join our firm,” said Snowden co-founder and CEO Rob Mooney.

Bank of America sokesman Matt Card confirmed the departures of the pair of teams.

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Mr. Mooney and co-founder John Morris — both also Merrill veterans, launched Snowden last year and expect to attract more wirehouse advisers going forward. Mr. Morris said the firm wasn't using recruiters to target new partners but would selectively recruit experienced advisers. “We're looking to build a national boutique firm and we're looking for advisers to help build a brand with us,” said Mr. Morris.

Snowden has chosen a hybrid operating model, registering as an RIA with the Securities & Exchange Commission, and also building a broker-dealer for advisers to execute commissioned transactions for clients. It's been a more complicated ramp up for the firm, but Mr. Morris, managing partner responsible for investment solutions, expects the strategy to pay dividends.

“Financial advisers want the choice of how they can serve their clients,” said Mr. Morris, “We expect advisers will have about 80% of their business in fee-based accounts, but the utility of a broker-dealer is very important to them. We feel it's the right model that serves client interests best.”