Regional heavyweight Stifel Nicolaus has reeled in a 33-year Merrill Lynch veteran for one of its West Coast offices.

Richard Ward is leaving Merrill Lynch after more than three decades to join Stifel Nicolaus as first vice president/investments in the Irvine Spectrum, Calif., office.  The move to regional broker-dealers from larger firms has become increasingly popular since 2009 as advisors seek a more intimate culture and a change of pace from some of the larger firms.

“I was looking for something different than the typical wirehouse environment, a place where I would be both supported and appreciated, and that’s exactly what I found at Stifel,” Ward said.  “I now feel like I am getting the support – both from the home office and here at the branch – that I need to best serve my clients and help me attract new clients, and I look forward to a much happier and productive experience in the months ahead.”

At Merrill, Ward managed over $74 million in client assets and produced more than $680,000 in annual production.

He has a total of 34 years of experience in the investment industry. For the one year he was not at Merrill, Ward was an account executive with Dean Witter Reynolds in Marina del Rey, Calif.

“As a branch manager, it is so refreshing to be able to focus and deliver on the firm’s client-first philosophy without the distractions that some firms have been dealing with since the financial crisis of 2008,” said Susan Dixon, senior vice president/investments and branch manager of the Irvine Spectrum office to whom Richard will be reporting.

St. Louis-based Stifel Nicolaus is ranked the seventh largest investment firm with more than 2,000 advisors