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$3 Billion Team Jumps Ship to Work New Model

By Murray Coleman July 1, 2015

David La Placa had been at Deutsche Bank Securities for more than 11 years before he left Friday to establish Intellectus Partners in San Francisco. Joining him at the independent RIA is cofounder Jay Casey, along with long-time colleagues Kelly Morton and Tina Chan. The team, which managed about $3.2 billion at Deutsche Bank, now uses middle- and back-office support from Dynasty Financial Partners.

Q: What was the main reason you left Deutsche Bank?

A: We wanted to take advantage of the increasing competition on Wall Street in terms of new service models, technologies and investment solutions. The number of innovations sweeping through our industry is creating new ways for advisors to work with almost everything they touch. We’re trying to focus less on the existing model of looking at what clients have done in the past — that is, how many assets they’ve accumulated. Instead, we’re following a business strategy that emphasizes looking at each client’s future wealth-building potential. So we now are giving ourselves the freedom to work with promising entrepreneurs and business leaders. In other words, we aren’t setting any account minimums.

Q: Why did you choose independence?

A: The old advantages of scale have largely gone away in this industry. These days, being nimble and remaining flexible in how you serve clients is much more important to smartly growing a practice. The old model in wealth management revolves around managing a firm’s different distribution channels. But we’ve decided to get out of the product-distribution game. Instead, we’re adopting an independent business model that centers on freedom of choice and puts less emphasis in the planning process on product placement.

Q: What specific types of clients are you focusing on?

A: Global entrepreneurs and business builders. We have clients in about 18 different countries. We are offering them completely open architecture — we can follow any avenue to find the right resources for each client. That can include shopping for the best investment and lending solutions for business owners to searching for truly independent research that can best benefit someone’s personal and professional growth as an investor and entrepreneur.

Q: What was the hardest thing about the transition?

A: The paperwork is always a challenge in forming a new business. But we’re using Fidelity and Pershing as our custodians, and Dynasty is helping us to manage our mid- and back-office functions. All of these firms are providing much appreciated support to help us complete documents and make the transition smooth for everyone involved in the process. It’s really helping us to free up more time to work directly with clients and make sure all of their needs are being met.

Q: How many of your clients came with you?

A: At this point, just a few days into the process, it’s premature to get into actual numbers. But I will say that we’ve seen a tremendous response so far, and we’re very optimistic about the future.

Q: Did their fees change?

A: This move is about providing better service and more choice for our clients. Now that we’re able to take advantage of greater competition in planning solutions, we expect our clients to benefit financially over time.

Q: How about your compensation?

A: We had a number of different options that might’ve provided us with greater immediate compensation. But by going independent and starting our own firm, we’ve got more flexibility and freedom to serve our clients in the best ways possible. In the end, we think that sort of client-centric approach will provide us with the best path to achieving long-term success as a business. And now that we’re entrepreneurs ourselves, that’s going to resonate even more with our entrepreneurial clients.

Q: Any advice for other FAs who are thinking about breaking away from a wirehouse?

A: Do your due diligence. We took about three years to talk to everybody, from wirehouses to other types of broker-dealers and most of the major independents. So we made sure that there were no surprises for our clients. And that should be an advisor’s main concern in looking at a move. After all, when everything is said and done, you’ve got to make sure a move truly is in the best interests of your clients.