Phoenix-based RIA firm Miller/Russell & Associates says it now holds the reins to its own financial destiny by becoming a 100% employee and client owned company late last month.

The objective of its self-bought autonomy, say company officials, is to free its owners to decide its own growth path and pursue new lines of business.

The road to Miller/Russell’s employee buyout started two years ago, when associate partners Dennis Miller and Brad Lemon bought back 75% of the firm from its banking partner Western Alliance Bancorporation. They then acquired the remaining bank interest late last year. Miller/Russell has $1.5 billion in private wealth and institutional assets under management and about 430 clients.

Under its new ownership, the firm is held by founder and Chairman Dennis Miller, managing partners Brad Lemon and Christina Burroughs, and CEO and managing partner Mark Feldman, who was hired last January to oversee the firm’s restructure.

A 25-year industry veteran, Feldman founded Inlign Wealth Management in 2002. which merged with GenSpring Family Offices in 2007.

Miller/Russell has also taken on client Marketplace One LLC, a privately owned, family-based investment group in Arizona, as a minority partner with a 12.5% stake in the company.

Feldman says his mandate is to make the firm a more full-service wealth management company for its institutional and private clients. The firm expanded its service offerings last year to include wealth management, tax planning and compliance with the addition of key team members, including Feldman, Burroughs and Vice Chairman Bill Hodges.

“Miller/Russell is looking to deliver a more complete wealth management service to clients,” Feldman says. “This (ownership) change is that opportunity.”

“The firm wants to be a standalone, independent financial management and investment firm,” Feldman adds. “And now, we no longer have any restrictions on the way we operate.”

A wealth management and RIA firm, Miller/Russell has traditionally concentrated on providing investment for clients. Under Feldman, the company will add wealth management for family offices as well as adding a tax service. It will also expand its business serving 401(k)s and other institutions.

Besides broadening the firm's menu of client services, Feldman also helped expand the firm’s management team, something he says opens the door for current management to become partners in the firm, and ensures an internal succession plan for Miller, the former company CEO.

"It's valuable for the firm to have an organizational plan that addresses the issue of succession," Feldman says. “It’s important for clients to know that the organization is going to be here, even after we lose a person.”