A team of three former Merrill Lynch wealth management advisors in North Carolina handling a reported AUM of almost $500 million have launched their own registered investment advisor in Southern Pines, just six miles away from their old office, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Howell Evans Neville, founder, principal and wealth manager, and Michelle Shelly Robinson, also founder, principal and wealth manager, were joined by Colleen O’Donnell, chief compliance officer, in establishing the Pines Wealth Management, according to the firm’s Form ADV.

Earlier this year, the team was listed among Forbes’ “Best In State” wealth management teams with $491 million in assets.

They all most recently worked at Merrill’s Pinehurst office, which remains staffed by Barbara Lutke, who has been with Merrill since 1998 and currently is listed as a vice president and senior financial advisor on Merrill’s website.

It is unclear how much in assets will be following the Pines Wealth advisors, and Neville did not return a call for comment by press time.

However, Pines Wealth received approval to operate on March 26 under the SEC’s 120-day rule, which allows firms to open for business if they expect they will be eligible for registration within four months. For many new RIAs, that means gathering at least $100 million in assets under management from former clients joining them at their new firm.

According to Pines Wealth’s SEC-filed brochure, Neville, a CFP, started with Merrill Lynch in 1994 as a broker and became dually registered in 2000. Most recently he was resident director and wealth management advisor at the Pinehurst office. He now is also a registered representative for broker-dealer Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments.

Robinson, also a CFP, joined Merrill as a broker in 2015 and became dually registered in 2016. Most recently she was vice president and wealth management advisor in the same office and is also a registered rep at Purshe Kaplan Sterling.

O’Donnell joined Merrill’s Pinehurst office in 2014 as a dually registered rep. Before that she worked at UBS Securities from 2009 to 2014, at Citigroup from 2007 to 2009, at Banc of America Investment Services from 2006 to 2007, and at A.G. Edwards & Sons from 2004 to 2006.

According to the Form ADV, the Pines will be compensated by a percentage of assets under management and fixed fees, and will offer financial planning and portfolio management for individuals, high-net-worth individuals, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, small businesses and retirement plans.

The RIA has affiliated itself with Schwab Advisor Services, through which it will receive access to software and related support. Schwab is also the firm’s custodian, the brochure said.