Chicago-based HighTower Advisors has recruited a private banking team from Merrill Lynch that handles over $1 billion in client assets.

Paul A. Pagnato and David W. Karp, formerly with Private Wealth Advisors at Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group, joined HighTower as managing directors and partners on Friday. Their advisor team, called Pagnato-Karp Group, is based in Washington, D.C.

Pagnato and Karp specialize in family office services, including asset management, estate and tax planning for rich investors and philanthropic solutions for wealthy entrepreneurs, according to HighTower.

HighTower, which serves high-net-worth and institutional clients, said Pagnato-Karp is its first private banking team.

HighTower, founded in 2008, said its more than 50 advisors will now manage about $20 billion in client assets.

"Paul and David bring extensive expertise meeting the increasingly complex needs of discerning families," said Mike Papedis, HighTower's managing director of national business development. "They have proven their unwavering commitment to placing the clients' interests first."

Pagnato founded the Washington, D.C., branch of Merrill Lynch's Private Banking and Investment Group and served on the Merrill Lynch Advisory Board, according to HighTower. Karp served on the Merrill Lynch Investment Policy Committee and manages customized client portfolios.

The deal comes on the heels of two other high-profile financial advisor signings by HighTower.

In early July, HighTower signed on the three partners of VWG Wealth Management, with nearly $700 million in client assets. VWG's  partners previously worked at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

In mid-May, HighTower signed on a Palm Desert, Calif.-based Merrill Lynch team led by Brian Amidei, with about $375 million under management.

"Sophisticated wirehouse teams nationwide recognize the financial services landscape has changed and question the large integrated firm model," Papedis said. "In increasing numbers, advisors are not afraid to vote with their feet and place HighTower on their short list of firms to explore."