A Morgan Stanley team that generated $1.8 million in annual revenue has left the wirehouse to join Steward Partners, an independent firm affiliated with Raymond James, according to the brokerage.

The team, which oversaw $235 million, opened a new office in Manchester, N.H., for Steward Partners. The location was once occupied by Smith Barney prior to its acquisition by Morgan Stanley, according to Greg Banasz, managing director and head of business development at Steward Partners.

Several of Steward Partner's managers have past experience at Smith Barney, including Chairman Michael Maurer and CEO James Gold.

"For me it's a little bit of a homecoming," says Gold, who once oversaw Smith Barney's Manchester office.

"If you look out 10 years, then we have to be very comfortable with what we are doing. Without the clients, we don't stay in business," says adviser John Rice.

Steward Partner's latest hires – John Rice, 52, Alan Scalingi, 65, and Andy Githmark, 41 – have been partners for about five years, they say. The team serves multi-generational families.

"We're not that far apart age wise, but we find that Alan might be working with the 75 or 80 year-old-client, I'm working with their children and Andy may be dealing with their grandchildren," Rice says.

They made the switch from wirehouse to independent firm in part for a better work environment, adding that they were impressed with both Steward Partners and Raymond James, which supports the independent firm.

"We like the culture of working for a smaller firm simply because it is easier to get things done," says Scalingi, who started his career in 1983 with E.F. Hutton, per FINRA BrokerCheck records.

(Image: Bloomberg News)
(Image: Bloomberg News)

Another motivation to switch firms: Gaining more autonomy to run their practice as they saw fit. Their business is primarily managed accounts, according to the team

"We wanted to move to the models that we wanted to and charge what we wanted to," Rice says.

He adds that they find clients are increasingly concerned about fees, "and we wanted to be responsive to that and in front of that."

Rice, noting the competitive nature of the industry, adds that it's critical that the team finds the right fit both in terms of business and firm culture.

"If you look out 10 years, then we have to be very comfortable with what we are doing. Without the clients, we don't stay in business," he says.

A spokeswoman for Morgan confirmed the team's departure, but declined to comment further.

For the moment Steward's Manchester office consists only of the three advisers plus an assistant – but they may soon have company, as Gold says the firm is in active conversations with more recruits.

"We have seen activity every month this year," Gold says.

So far this year, the Washington-based Steward Partners has pulled over several new teams. In May, the firm recruited an RBC team that managed $350 million in client assets as well as a UBS adviser who oversaw $100 million in client assets.

"It's not just hiring people. It's that we are continuing to hire the best quality people," says Banasz.

He adds: "We don't want people to say, 'Oh my god, you hired him.'"