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Established in 1800, Alex. Brown stands as one of America’s oldest and most esteemed investment banks. A storied institution, it weathered the highs and lows of the ’90s tech bubble before being acquired by Deutsche Bank in 1999. In 2016, Deutsche Bank rebranded it as “Deutsche Bank Advisors,” only for it to be later acquired by Raymond James.

Transition Challenges: Raymond James, a well-run institution with a diverse platform, reintroduced the iconic “Alex. Brown” brand to designate its UHNW division. However, the integration hasn’t been seamless. Over the past 25 years, the Alex. Brown name has changed hands multiple times, leaving its advisors searching for identity amidst the shuffle.

Cultural Shift: For Alex. Brown advisors, assimilating into Raymond James is akin to moving from a Rolex to a Timex. Raymond James primarily caters to mid-level producers and average net-worth clients, a demographic distinct from the white-shoed clientele Alex. Brown traditionally serves.

The Catalyst for Independence: Haig Ariyan’s departure from Raymond James’s Alex. Brown division in pursuit of independent ventures in July 2023 sent shockwaves through the advisor community. Ariyan’s landing at Arax Investment Partners, an independent firm collaborator, hints at a potential path toward independence for Alex. Brown advisors.

The Exodus and Evaluation: Since Ariyan’s departure, advisors have continued to leave, exploring various options from joining large wirehouses to pursuing independence through supported platforms. As of September 2023, the seven-year contracts advisors signed are up for assessment, prompting a critical juncture for the advisor community. Roger Gershman of The Gershman Group recently sat down with Haig Ariyan to ask him about the move and the role of independent RIAs now and into the future, click here to listen.

Survey Insights: An independent study sponsored by The Gershman Group provides vital insights into the sentiments of Alex. Brown’s remaining advisors. Notably, 48% of respondents expressed openness to exploring new opportunities, while only 32% believe that Alex. Brown advisors will remain within the organization a decade from now.

Cultural Fit in Mergers and Acquisitions: Recent industry shifts, including the integration of FRB advisors into JPMorgan Chase and the repercussions of Goldman Sachs PFM’s transition to Creative Planning, and Merrill Lynch/B of A, highlight a recurring oversight—culture and fit. It proves challenging to compromise on service, branding, and offerings, especially for entrepreneurial-minded advisors unwilling to conform to big-firm groupthink.

Empowering Advisors: Advisors are encouraged to assess their options, recognizing their worth, evaluating their options, and embrace change without fear of dire consequences. Ultimately, this shift positions advisors to lead their practices in alignment with their career-long aspirations.

The situation concludes that platforms and custodians are ubiquitous, there is a tug of war between advisors and banks, the result of which is a mass exodus towards independence.

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