McKinley Investment Group and Kanawha Investment & Trust today announced they've joined forces to create a new entity called McKinley Carter Wealth Services, a company with $325 million in assets and more than 500 clients from West Virginia's northern panhandle and capital regions.

The merger, effective January 1, unites Wheeling-based McKinley and Charleston-based Kanawha to create the state's largest independent wealth management firm, says David McKinley, who along with Kanawha's CEO, Will Carter, will be a principal at the combined firm.

"We have in-house expertise in investments while the other firm essentially outsourced everything" in that area, McKinley says. "What they bring to the table is expertise in estate planning and trust services."

Carter recognized he had to grow his firm in order expand his service offerings, but a merger wasn't part of the equation until McKinley reached out to him in the fall of 2006. "It occurred to me that it would be a very quick way to achieve economies of scale," Carter says. "It speeds up my business plan by five years."

Among the deal's synergies, Carter says McKinley's firm is adept in industry best practices such as compliance, technology and human resources, while his firm is well-versed in comprehensive wealth management.

The two advisors hashed out the merger details over the past year. "Developing a common language to get work done had been the biggest challenge," Carter says.

Both firms are each expected to generate $1.3 million in revenue this year, and the combined company expects to produce $3.2 million in revenue in 2008. Based on industry data from Moss Adams, the company says this would place it among the top 20% of independent financial advisory firm in terms of annual revenue.

Before founding McKinley Investment Group in 2003, McKinley was vice president of investments at Prudential Securities, now a part of Wachovia.

Carter has been president and CEO of Kanawha since 2003. Prior to that, he served as a staff attorney and policy advisor to former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton.