September 17, 2012 / 5:02 PM / 5 years ago

ON THE MOVE-Merrill advisers go independent, join Concert Wealth

Sept 17 (Reuters) - After more than a decade at Merrill Lynch, veteran adviser Kevin Stophel decided to leave the Bank of America-owned brokerage to set up his own independent wealth management firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Stophel, who left Merrill last Thursday, said he made the move to be able to have greater independence in offering financial planning and investment advice more in line with his clients' interests, rather than feel pressured to push any particular bank products to them.

"The reality is that everything at the end of the day was tied to selling a product," Stophel said of the environment at his old firm. "Very often it was products that my clients didn't need."

Stophel, who moved with fellow former Merrill adviser Matthew McCoy, said he was initially approached by several other big bank-owned brokerage firms that offered him attractive recruiting packages.

Merrill confirmed the departures but declined to comment further.

"If I am truly going to be able to provide client-centric planning, I would need to change the type of business structure that I'm associated with," Stophel said. "I looked for a clean break."

Stophel and McCoy managed about $90 million at Merrill. Together, they formed independent wealth management firm KumQuat, LLC, in partnership with registered investment adviser firm Concert Wealth Management.

San Jose, California-based Concert Wealth is a subsidiary of Concert Global Group Ltd and works with independent advisers who also function as business owners. Since the start of the year, Concert has added a number of veteran brokers from major Wall Street firms, offering them support in running their own practices.

"I had looked at other national RIA (registered investment adviser) companies that were more well-known, but I felt that a smaller, newer company was a better fit," Stophel said.

Stophel said he plans to add two more advisers to his team and one full-time support staff member by June 2013.

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