Ex-Merrill execs hope to get mileage out of hybrid model

Mooney, Morris launch Snowden Capital Advisors; counting on word of mouth to attract advisers

Apr 13, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

By Dan Jamieson

Two former Merrill Lynch executives have launched a new hybrid firm, New York-based Snowden Capital Advisors LLC.

Co-founders Rob Mooney and John Morris hope to attract higher-end adviser teams who hear about the startup by word of mouth. “We have had quite a number of advisers contacting us directly at this point,” Mr. Mooney said. “We do not employ recruiters.”

Mr. Mooney formerly was the head of business risk management for Merrill's retail business, and Mr. Morris served at Merrill in a variety of roles, including as chairman of the Latin America region for its private-client group.

The firm is not targeting Merrill or anyone else specifically for recruits, Mr. Mooney said.

“We have extensive contacts that are well-dispersed across the industry,” Mr. Mooney said.

The firm expects to land its first advisers this year. “We're not setting targets” for number of advisers, Mr. Mooney said, but Snowden wants to attract professionals who typically deal with $1 million and larger households.

The firm has both an registered investment adviser and a newly approved broker-dealer.

“We're using the hybrid structure, but with an employee model,” Mr. Morris said.

Advisers will have an opportunity to be owners of the company, he said.

Running an employee model can give the firm a competitive advantage, Mr. Morris said.

“There's probably less choices [among work platforms] available if you want to … represent [a single] brand and build your business around it,” he said. “So we do see that as one differentiating feature” of the company, Mr. Morris said.

The men hope to recreate some of the traditional partnership culture that Wall Street seemingly lost as the major brokerage firms went public.

“We think times are right to bring some of that back, but to match it up with some of technology that vendors can provide, with what custodians can provide, and the [opportunities] to provide open architecture,” Mr. Morris said.

Snowden will custody assets with Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co. Inc. and Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC.

The name Snowden derives from the name of the street that connects the two men's homes in Princeton, N.J. — the same homes where they grew up and first knew each other in kindergarten.

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