When they finally pulled the trigger on leaving their wirehouse to go independent, Dan DeMoss and his partners implemented their plan with almost military precision.
A new office was discreetly secured. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of office equipment and furnishings were stored in their garages, ready to be moved at a moment's notice. A broker-dealer, Raymond James Financial, had been vetted and chosen months in advance. Plans were drawn up for contacting old clients-but carefully, so as not to violate any noncompete and nonsolicit agreements.
Oh, and DeMoss made absolutely sure his team resigned on a Friday-the later the better-because then they would have the weekend to transition into the new office. It would also minimize the time his old wirehouse, Merrill Lynch, would have to reach out to his clients before the start of the new workweek.
Indeed, DeMoss outdid himself on this phase of the operation. He and his partners left on Friday, October 31, 2008, in the middle of an office Halloween party.
"Historically, the candy begins to get passed around at about noon," says DeMoss, who, along with his partners, created The Turner Group in Tulsa, Okla. "By the time we left, there weren't a lot of people there to start cannibalizing our business."
The Friday rule, it turns out, is followed by virtually every breakaway broker who has done his or her homework, meaning Wall Street's giants may by now be feeling a bit skittish when the end of the workweek arrives.
Not that brokers transitioning to independence is a new trend. The exodus, in fact, has been building for years as the fee-only model has become more attractive and new technologies allow advisors to transition seamlessly to RIA status.
But as a result of the historic financial and economic meltdown of 2008, deciding whether to go independent has taken on a new urgency among many advisors.
Industry observers note not only an uptick in departures, but also a notable increase in the size of some of the advisor teams that are leaving the confines of the big wirehouses.
Advisors interviewed for this article cited various reasons for leaving, but most mentioned a desire to be entrepreneurs, plus being disillusioned with their wirehouses' perceived emphasis on sales of proprietary products over clients' interests. For some of these advisors, the financial crisis, and the role that Wall Street investment banks played in the collapse, represented a tipping point.
In response, wirehouses named by the brokers maintained their clients indeed come first.