After 52 Years at Merrill, Duo Producing 7.5 Million Goes Indie with RayJay

4 Mar    Investing News

Two lifetime Merrill Lynch brokers in Alexandria, Virginia, who said they had been generating around $7.5 million in annual revenue have affiliated with Raymond James Financial as independent contractors.

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Neil J. Goetzman, who spent his 32-year career with Merrill, and Jeffrey A. Nau, a 20-year lifetime Merrill veteran, launched Goetzman Nau Financial Partners with Raymond James Financial Services on Friday, the two confirmed in a brief interview. They said they were managing about $900 million of client assets.

“We’re happy to be independent,” Nau said, declining to elaborate on details of their search and their motivation for shedding their wirehouse roots. 

Spokespeople at Merrill Lynch and Raymond James did not return requests for comment. 

Goetzman, whose father worked at Merrill for nearly 40 years before he retired in 2000, has been listed as a top 1,200 advisor in the nation by Barron’s magazine every year since 2010, according to his former Merrill biography. The publication, which has not yet released its 2020 list, ranked him as #21 in Virginia last year.

Nau began his career in December 1999 at Merrill in December 1999, and began partnering with Goetzman in 2004. Forbes ranked him #42 on its 2020 list of best-in-Virginia wealth advisors, saying the team had been managing $766 million. Goetzman said the assets were understated because they were based on midyear 2019 data.

Raymond James’s employee channel last month hired Michael Borza, a Merrill broker in Virginia Beach with $1.9 million in revenue, and earlier this month recruited a $2.5-million team of Merrill producers in Oklahoma City.

Merrill Lynch has had a freeze since late 2017 on hiring veteran brokers, despite the exit of numerous veteran advisors. It has been focusing on replacing its bench with trainees, junior brokers from competitors, Merrill Edge advisors working with full-service teams and a new development program for client associates seeking to become advisors. 

Bank of America reported that it had 17,548 advisors as of the end of 2019, including those at Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge and its private bank. The total was down by 60 from a year earlier, but dozens of brokers left Merrill Lynch Wealth, the core brokerage unit, in the past year, according to recruiters and insiders.  

Merrill Lynch Wealth (which includes its private banking unit for ultra-high-net-worth customers that was formerly known as PBIG) no longer breaks out the number of its brokers. It had 14,690 (excluding trainees) as of June 30, 2019, the last time it reported the total, down 130 from 12 months earlier.

The firm has made exceptions to its hiring rule, particularly for advisers with banking backgrounds. Last month it recruited a BNY Mellon private banking team in southern California producing $15 million.

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