Merrill Wealth Team Producing $10 Mln Joins First Republic

October 4, 2019

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First Republic Bank continued its aggressive recruiting of big-producing wirehouse teams on Friday, hiring a Merrill Lynch Private Wealth team that generated about $10 million of client revenue in the past 12 months, according to multiple sources. 

John P. Ver Bockel and Maureen Raihle, name partners on the team that also included a junior broker and seven associates, oversaw $1.6 billion in customer money, they said. Ver Bockel and Raihle, who did not return calls for comment, worked at Merrill for their entire brokerage careers of 36 and 31 years, respectively.

The team has been based in Chicago, but Ver Bockel has been dually based there and in Palm Beach, Fla., for several years. The team will now relocate to Palm Beach, where First Republic has three other “wealth managers” in its bank location. It could not be determined if all of the associates are making the move.

San Francisco-based First Republic, which Merrill Lynch briefly owned before Bank of America sold it back to management and other buyers in 2009, has been building the franchise with a base of veteran brokers from Merrill, UBS Wealth Management, Credit Suisse and other big-name firms. Its expansion from private banking into the broader fee-based wealth management business took flight in 2012 when it purchased an advisory firm called Luminous that was led by former Merrill brokers, and subsequently hired some Merrill-trained managers. 

First Republic still has fewer than 200 private wealth management advisors—and its Luminous brokers unexpectedly returned to independence in June—but it beefed up in September by hiring more multibillion-dollar-under management teams from Merrill and UBS

Its success has been bolstered in part by lucrative hiring packages that can reach 300% of advisors’ trailing-12-month production and promises of referrals of wealthy banking clients, according to recruiters and bank insiders. Although many of First Republic’s recruits are older and experienced, they generally must remain with the bank for ten to 12 years to receive the full bonus benefits. 

Ver Bockel, a 1980 graduate of the University of Wisconsin who joined Merrill in 1983, is a director and major-gifts fundraiser for the Western Golf Association, a 460-member-club organization that sponsors tournaments and runs a scholarship program for caddies, according to his BrokerCheck record and web biographies.  

He ranked #13 on Forbes’ 2019 list of best-in-state advisors in Illinois, and has represented Merrill’s high-end private wealth advisors as a member of the advisory council to senior management. 

Raihle, who joined Merrill in 1987, ranked #39 on Forbes’ 2019 list of Top Women advisors, and is one of 16 women ranked 13 years in a row on Barron’s roster of Top 100 women advisors. She began her financial career on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, according to several profiles of her in local newspapers and national polls.

Merrill, which also lost four 30-year veteran advisors near St. Louis to Stifel Nicolaus on Friday, ended the second quarter with 14,690 advisors, down by a net 130 from the prior year. It has deliberately retreated from hiring veteran brokers for more than a year, hoping to compensate for departures by offering advisors rewards and penalties tied to growing assets and household accounts

A spokeswoman for Merrill did not return a request for comment on Friday’s departures to First Republic and Stifel.

— Vicky Ge Huang and Jed Horowitz contributed to this story.

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