HighTower lands $750 million Morgan Stanley team

The Bahnsen Group, which brought in $5 million in annual revenue last year, joins in Newport Beach, Calif.

Apr 2, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

By Mason Braswell

HighTower Advisors, a hybrid broker-dealer and investment adviser, has netted a top Morgan Stanley team in California with the addition of the Bahnsen Group, which previously managed around $750 million in assets.

The group, which joins HighTower as one of its roughly 50 partner firms, is led by David Bahnsen and includes three other advisers, Brian Szytel, Robert Graham and Kimberlee Davis, along with an analyst and three client associates, according to the team's webpage at Morgan Stanley. They will operate as The Bahnsen Group of HighTower.

In an interview, Mr. Bahnsen said he had been following HighTower for several years before deciding to join and was interested in the firm's boutique model and its research capabilities. So far, clients have been receptive, he said.

“You never know exactly what to expect,” he said. “But when people start saying, 'Why didn't you do this a long time ago?' — it's kind of validating.”

While at Morgan Stanley, Mr. Bahnsen and his team were “one of the largest practices in the organization,” he said in an email announcing the move to subscribers of his newsletter. The team produced $5 million in annual revenue last year, according to HighTower spokesman Tony Kono.

Mr. Bahnsen, who had been with Morgan Stanley since 2007, said that while he would “always cherish” his time at the firm, he felt that Morgan Stanley had grown too large.

“It is ... gigantic, and by gigantic, I mean, unfathomably gigantic,” he said in the email. “We have been blessed to be one of the largest practices in the organization for years. However, in the last six months, the realities of a firm with 16,000+ financial advisers to cater to has become something I could not live with any longer.”

His new office in Newport Beach, Calif., will be a few blocks away from the team's former Morgan Stanley office, he said in the letter.

Christine Jockle, a spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley, did not respond to a request for comment.

HighTower Advisors had around $20.5 billion in assets under management as of its most recent SEC filing on March 30. That's up from around $15 billion reported at the end of March 2014.

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