The biggest advisor moves of the year were dominated by wirehouse to wirehouse moves. But a steady stream of wirehouse advisors with substantial practices -- the biggest one with $1.2 billion in AUM -- continued to head for independence as well. HighTower, Dynasty and Focus are among the chief beneficiaries of the movement so far this year.

See the ten biggest breakaway teams, where they came from and where they went:

Merrill Team Jumps to HighTower

A Merrill Lynch team with $440 million in AUM moved to HighTower in September. 

Advisors William Wolf and Ethan Collins joined HighTower's Partnership in Red Bank, N.J. Wolf is a two-decade industry veteran, and had been with Merrill since 1998, according to FINRA records. Collins worked at the wirehouse since 2001.

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HighTower Helps Wirehouse Team Form New Practice

A group of Merrill Lynch advisors formed a new practice, the Ezzell-Conklin Group, in Sacramento, Calif. Collectively, the advisors managed about $525 million while at the wirehouse.

The group consists of Doug Conklin, Jason Ezzell, Alec Fisher and Gina Clark.

Ezzell described Conklin as a long-time friend and said he was thrilled to team up with him.

Conklin started his career in 1983 with Merrill, according to FINRA records. Ezzell had been with the wirehouse since 1999.

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Another Big Grab for HighTower

HighTower pulled over a Morgan Stanley team managing $600 million in assets in May. 

The team formed Gryphon Financial Partners in Columbus, Ohio. Team members include Joel Guth, Cathy Cory, Angelo Manzo, CFA, Judy Roseberry, CRPC, Maria Kardassilaris, Jean Sturges and Kathy Payne. 

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Morgan Stanley Team Goes Independent

A five-member advisor team with $650 million in AUM left Morgan Stanley to go independent in July. 

Consulting firm tru Independence helped the group, which formed Encompass Wealth Advisors in Portland, Ore., make the move. 

Encompass is comprised of advisors Derrick Clouser, Walter Urban, Matthew Presjak, Colin Williams and Mary Minshall. 

Senior team member Urban started his career 32 years ago, according to FINRA records.

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Merrill Advisors Move to Dynasty

Two Merrill Lynch teams, with a combined $700 million in client assets, joined forces to breakaway from the wirehouse via Dynasty Financial Partners. 

The former wirehouse advisors, David Christian, Jeffrey Krum and Brian Hefele, formed their new practice Cable Hill Partners in Portland, Ore., in March. 

At the time of the move Shirl Penney, Dynasty president and chief executive, said he expected more advisors to make the move to independence.

"Anytime a smart and talented person with significant capital comes into the space, it's a further validation of the future of the independent channel," says Penney. "The lifeblood of the industry is assets, and asset flows are going to the independents."

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RIA Doubles AUM With Wirehouse Additions

In April, a Morgan Stanley team overseeing about $740 million in assets joined Integrated Wealth Management, an RIA in Palm Springs, Calif. 

The team, known as the Cypress Group, is comprised of seven advisors: Mark Thatcher, Shad F. Lamm, Chris Risenmay, Ross Biesinger, David Thatcher, Clark Penney and Marc Koven. 

Except for Koven, the Cypress Group advisors worked at Merrill Lynch before jumping ship to Morgan Stanley in 2008, according to FINRA documents. Koven started his financial services career at Morgan Stanley in 2005. 

Four client services representatives also moved with the Cypress Group.

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Focus Helps $750M Practice Go Independent

In May, a Merrill Lynch team led by veteran advisor Herman Rij went independent via Focus Financial.

The team, known as Quadrant Private Wealth, managed $750 million in assets while at Merrill. Advisors Jason Cort, Brian Cort and Kori Lannon made the move with Rij to form their new practice in Bethlehem, Pa. 

Rij started his career in 1969 and joined Merrill in 1971, according to FINRA records. Cort started working at Merrill in 1997 while his brother Brian joined the wirehouse in 2002. Lannon signed on in 2007.

"The elite are voting with their feet. The best of the best advisors are leaving the wirehouses," Focus CEO Rudy Adolf said following the move. "The momentum is terrific in the breakaway space."

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HighTower's Big Pull

HighTower helped a $800 million team leave Merrill Lynch in August. 

Former wirehouse advisors Pamela Lynn Abraham, Jack Thomas, Trevor Swartz and Mathew Verrengia joined HighTower's Partnership in Fort Myers, Fla. 

The advisors were joined in the move by senior registered associate Benita Alstatt and client services associate Tiffany Likness.

Senior team member Abraham had spent 33 years at Merrill, according to FINRA records. 

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Billion-Dollar Breakaways

An advisor team managing $1 billion in assets left UBS with help from Focus Financial.

The team, now called IFM Capital Advisors, formed their new practice in January. IFM is led by veteran advisors Timothy Kneen and Clayton Hartman, had offices in Denver, Fort Collins and Sioux Falls, S.D. 

IFM became a partner firm with Focus, which provided the group with resources to aide their transition. 

"We've always wanted to hold the very best interest of our clients first. Doing it in the independent field allows us to do that better. It actually enables us to increase returns by reducing expenses," Hartman told On Wall Street following their move. 

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Mega Team Leaves the Wirehouse World

In March Morgan Stanley team with $1.2 billion went independent with Lebenthal Wealth Advisors, a young firm with a venerable Wall Street name that was started last year. 

Advisors Carrie Gallaway and Andrew Stern signed on as partners with an equity stake in Lebenthal.

The firm is led by CEO Frank Campanale, a former executive at Smith Barney and E.F. Hutton.

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