An advisory group that earlier this year left Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has joined HighTower Advisors, a high-flying independent RIA and broker-dealer based in Chicago.

The Morgia Group, based in Watertown, N.Y., with $500 million in assets, becomes HighTower's tenth office. Founded two years ago, HighTower also has offices in California, Utah, Florida, Michigan and Indiana, as well as corporate centers in San Francisco and New York City.

The Morgia Group serves high-net-worth individuals, physicians, institutions and foundations and small businesses. Its advisors are all family members. Tony Morgia, the group's founder, is now a managing director and partner at HighTower. He previously spent more than 30 years at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Michael Morgia, Tony's son, and Philip (P.J.) Banazek, Tony's son-in-law, also are joining as managing directors and partners, and Mark Banazek, Philip's cousin, joins as a financial advisor.

"HighTower provides support for independent advisors so they can continue to focus on the needs of their clients," says Elliot Weissbluth, HighTower's CEO. "We're committed to supporting such advisors in their growth as they continue to focus on the needs of their clients."

HighTower provides back office support, access to products and services, and the benefits of partnerships with similar advisory firms. Because it offers an open source network, HighTower competes for advisory firms' business with its products and services.

"The choice for an advisor (when leaving a wirehouse or large organization) is to go out on their own or join a group like HighTower to provide support for their independent operations," says Ed Freidman, managing director and director of advisory development.