Merrill Lynch recruited a team from Morgan Stanley that managed $1.2 billion in client assets.

The nine-person team, led by Bruce Munster, generated $5.8 million in annual revenue while at Morgan. They join Merrill's elite Private Banking & Investment Group in Century City, Calif., where they report to Michael Rogers, managing director.

A top producer, Munster was recently featured as No. 7 in On Wall Street's annual ranking of the Top 40 Advisors Under 40.

The move represents Merrill's biggest grab of the year so far. Last year, the firm recruited two advisors who collectively managed $3 billion in assets. Advisors Howard Rowen and Halsey Smith, who formed a team after leaving UBS and Deutsche Bank respectively, also joined Merrill's Private Banking & Investment Group in April last year.

A notable grab at the start of the year augurs well for Merrill's recruiting efforts, says Mickey Wasserman, head of recruiting firm Michael Wasserman & Associates.
"Merrill is being very aggressive. They need to recruit and to pick up the numbers. A team like this is evidence of Merrill's ability to get large teams and you're going to see more to come," he says.

Wasserman says the firm is offering enticing recruiting packages and also has strong product and technology capabilities, both of which may appeal to prospective recruits.

"They've recruited large teams in the past, but for this year this is the gateway team. You're going to see more teams coming over to Merrill as the year progresses," says Wasserman.


In an interview for the Top 40 Under 40 list, Munster told On Wall Street that his team served wealthy families and professionals who worked in industries such as aerospace, real estate and entertainment. One client is a Hollywood movie star.

"It's very much a reflection of Southern California," Munster said.

He said that the nearly all of the clients were self-made. "It's this interesting collection of Horatio Alger stories, which really makes it amazing to go to work every day," he said.

Of his recent move, Munster said in a statement that he switched firms because of the capabilities offered by Merrill Lynch and Bank of America.

"Bank of America can be a party to any sized deal -- whether a client needs corporate finance, investment banking or M&A counsel," he said.

Munster started his career in 1999 with Paine Webber, which was acquired by UBS, according to FINRA records. He moved to Morgan Stanley in 2007.

Munster's fellow team members also include his partners John Paffendorf, senior vice president, and David Freeman, vice president.

Paffendorf began his advisory career in 2001 at Merrill Lynch. He moved to UBS in 2003, and then to Morgan Stanley in 2007. Freeman, who joined UBS in 2006, also made the move to Morgan in the same year.

Paffendorf is the third generation of his family to work in the business, according to a Merrill spokeswoman. His father, John Gregory Paffendorf Sr., is an advisor at UBS, according to FINRA records. The senior Paffendorf worked at Merrill Lynch from 1989 to 2011.


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