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Ex-Merrill Advisor Nixes Big Indies For RBC

By Murray Coleman May 5, 2017

After more than a decade at Merrill Lynch, advisor Joe Piché left in late April to join RBC Wealth Management in suburban Minneapolis. His team managed more than $300 million at the wirehouse. Joining him at RBC are a longtime ex-Merrill staffer and a junior partner.

Q: Did you consider going independent?

A: About two years ago I started realizing that a move might be beneficial. So I reached out to a friend who worked at an independent brokerage. But in the end, I felt like moving to an independent firm would be a step back in service for my clients.

Q: How so?

A: My clients enjoy being able to access a range of financial services under one umbrella. At RBC they’re able to move their savings and checking accounts to another stable and well-respected bank. At the same time, we can still offer them credit cards and mortgage services if they need them. The beauty here is that we've got a range of different financial solutions, but we've also got the freedom and flexibility as advisors to pick and choose between different products for each client on an individual basis. It’s also nice to work in a highly responsive environment with a streamlined corporate management structure.

Q: Did you consider pressures to cross-sell products in your decision?

A: What I wanted was an investment platform with tools and services that allowed me to offer our clients a full set of arrows in their quivers. But my clients trust me not to push products. That was a critical part of my decision process – no matter where we landed I didn’t want to feel compelled to push banking products. In looking at a range of different large brokerages and independent broker-dealers, I came to the conclusion that RBC offered the best combination of products, solutions and freedom to take care of our clients in the way we felt would be most appropriate.

Joe Piché

Q: Did technology play a major role in your move?

A: Absolutely. We’re in the process of opening new accounts for clients and I’m finding it to be very intuitive – I’m not getting bogged down at all with difficult software interfaces and other technical snafus. As part of my due diligence, RBC let me test-drive their core retirement planning system. In many ways it’s similar to what we had at Merrill but it seems more user-friendly. I’m also excited that RBC’s tools are going to help us prioritize goals more specifically, which is going to help me develop deeper conversations with our clients.

Q: What was the hardest part of the move?

A: I recognize that change isn’t easy for everyone and some people might view this move as an inconvenience. I did follow the industry protocol and we knew that it was a possibility some of our clients wouldn’t make the move with us. But it’s turned out for me, at least, to be a very affirming process. It’s been really nice to hear from so many of our clients that they trust us to make this move and understand we’re doing it with their best interests at heart. We’re hoping we’ll have better than a 90% retention rate.

Q: How do you see this move helping your service menu grow?

A: I have greater access to things like tax-free municipal bonds. That’s important since Minnesota is a relatively high-tax state. The difference of what’s available here for my clients in terms of muni bonds is like night and day compared to my previous employer. We’ve also now gained access through RBC to most every major 401(k) record-keeper. That’s going to give us a greater ability to work with a lot more of the larger retirement plan sponsors. So we see that type of institutional business as a huge growth area for us in the future.