Two teams exit Merrill Lynch WM as global restructure bites

Two international advisor teams worth a combined $655 million have left Merrill Lynch as the impact of its international wealth management business restructure takes hold, Citywire Americas has learned.

The global wealth manager announced plans in July to cut down its international business with a new focus on Canada and Latin America while the departing teams served clients based in Europe and Asia.

Earlier this week, Miami-based mother-son team Graciela and Jorge Perez left Merrill Lynch to join independent broker dealer Bolton Global Capital, the latter confirmed to Citywire Americas.

The team have now formed a new firm, The Perez Group, and plan to take $300 million in assets under management to Bolton. Graciela Perez had been with Merrill nearly 20 years, according to Finra’s Broker Check.

According to Bolton’s chief executive, The Perez Group joins a number of other teams converting to the independent business model through Bolton ‘further solidifying’ its position in the market for independent financial advisors who service clients on a global basis.

Merrill Lynch also saw the departure of California-based Michael Wu on Monday, as he joined Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management as an international client advisor with $355 million in assets under management.

Wu is joined by Jenny Tasi, director of business strategy, who also joined from Merrill Lynch.

James Jesse, head of international wealth management at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management said: ‘As we continue to build our industry leading platform for international clients, Michael demonstrates the highest degrees of sophistication and experience.’

It is understood that the Perez team has a number of European client assets while Wu has a focus on Asia Pacific.

Commenting on the recent departures a Merrill Lynch spokeswoman said: ‘We are concentrating our efforts in those countries where we can responsibly serve clients through a goals-based wealth management approach and where we can deliver the enterprise together with our partners from across the bank.’

Regional refocus

Merrill is in the process of refocusing its international business in 29 countries, with a primary focus on clients in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

Clients in targeted regions must increase their account balances above $1 million by January 29 and new clients will have to have at least $2.5 million in investable assets to open an account.

Clients in 21 other countries must meet a $5 million account threshold. Meanwhile, any Merrill accounts outside of those 29 countries must be closed over the next 18 months.