Merrill Lynch has scooped up two advisors with $3 billion in assets under management from rival wirehouse giants UBS and Deutsche Bank.  

Howard Rowen and Halsey Smith joined the Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group's Los Angeles office on April 9.

The transition so far has been relatively smooth, but that's not to say it's an easy thing to do. Transitions are often "a little bit of a knife fight," Smith says. "It's a blood sport – it's a mad dash to get those clients to stay and we're trying to do the opposite, trying to get them to come join us at Merrill Lynch."

And so far the team has been successful in bringing many of their clients over. "It's wonderful, it's competitive, it's a challenge," he says. "And what we're finding is that clients are coming over."


Smith spent the last 24 years at Deutsche Bank. Rowen joined UBS in 2007 and began his financial services career in 1991 at Alex. Brown & Sons, which was integrated into Deutsche Bank following an acquisition in 1999.

Despite working at different companies, both Rowen and Smith have been in contact through the years and have "joked about working together for 10 of the last 12 years," says Smith. For a host of reasons the pair decided now was the right time to form a team, he says.

With complementary specialties – Smith's is short-term high grade fixed income, while Rowen focuses on equities, alternative investments, hedge funds and high-beta investments – together they could offer a "much more complete wealth management solution," Smith says. "We felt that one and one might make three."

Smith and Rowen's team of 10 works with ultrahigh-net-worth clients, 60% of which are institutional and 40% are families, according to Smith. Of the institutional clients the group serves, many companies are in the technology, life sciences and biotech industries. And many of the families the team works with are from what has "spun out" of the institutional services the team provides, Smith says. "They've seen what we do with their corporate accounts and they say, 'Will you do that for us personally?"

Bank of America's global reach, "huge product array" and the opportunity to cross-sell and refer clients to various financial services – and get compensated for it – is what attracted the team to Merrill Lynch, Smith says. "It's a nice way to be able to access people and get in front of people."

Rowen's father Harvey A. Rowen worked at Merrill Lynch from 1976 to 1991 helping to expand the Merrill Lynch Trust Company in the U.S.

Deutsche Bank and UBS declined to comment on the departures.

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