The Rivard Report – Snowden Lane Partners Opens in San Antonio With Former Merrill Lynch Team
Shari Biediger – May 2, 2017
Fast-growing Snowden Lane Partners, an independent wealth advisory firm with more than $3.3 billion in client assets, has added a San Antonio team to its roster of advisor groups. Larry Barocas, a former Bank of America Merrill Lynch vice president, will lead the local team, known as Strategic Management Group.
Barocas joins Snowden Lane as senior partner and managing director and is accompanied by Debbie Ury, who worked with Barocas at Merrill Lynch as vice president and analyst/relationship manager.
Barocas has worked in global economics, the legal field, and the investment advisory industry. Prior to becoming a financial advisor with Smith Barney in 1998 and joining Merrill Lynch in 2009, Barocas worked as a tax attorney at several firms, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and cross-border transactions.
Ury, a Chicago native, started her career with Merrill Lynch in 1981 and holds the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation.
In departing Merrill Lynch, the Barocas-Ury team joins of a growing number of Bank of America Merrill Lynch executives departing the massive financial advisory firm, which employs 265,000 worldwide, for smaller, boutique firms like Snowden, which is advisor-owned and now has teams in nine cities across the country.
In fact, according to Investment News, since August 2014, at least a dozen people from Merrill Lynch have bolted for Snowden. Assets under management for those advisory teams totaled almost $1.4 billion. Barocas and Ury served as advisors for about 50 households while at Merrill Lynch.
“I [moved to Snowden] for a couple of reasons,” Barocas said. “The biggest was that I wanted to practice with a company that had an open architecture, where I was free to work with like-minded people, where I could help my clients in a manner where I was free to use financial planning software to its fullest, that I had financial investments that would help them and that were non-proprietary … where I was able to use not just one trust company, but six, and pick the one that fit my client the best.”
Barocas works primarily with high-net-worth individuals and nonprofits and provides family office services. Many of his clients, he said, are C-suite executives who need customized portfolios because they have trusts and stock options and make philanthropic gifts. He can now act as a fiduciary as well and give advice on clients’ retirement assets.
“And for some clients, their retirement accounts may be their largest pool of assets,” Barocas said. “The [former] inability to give advice on that is a detriment.”
Since its founding in 2011, Snowden has rapidly built a national brand, bringing on advisors from not only Merrill Lynch, but other big names such as Morgan Stanley, UBS, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo. The firm has offices in Pasadena and San Diego, Calif.; New Haven, Conn.; Pittsburgh; and Baltimore, Salisbury, and Bethesda, Md. Headquartered in New York, Snowden operates an SEC-registered investment advisor and a broker-dealer.
In 2016, the Financial Times named the firm to its elite FT 300 list for the second year, recognizing it as one of the top independent registered investment advisor (RIA) firms in the U.S.
Snowden Lane Partners gets its name from founder Rob Mooney’s boyhood address, a tree-lined residential street in Princeton, N.J., the city where he still lives. Mooney is CEO and managing partner. Longtime friends from their Merrill Lynch days, Lyle LaMothe is Snowden’s chairman of the board of directors, and Greg Franks serves as managing partner and president.
“Strategic Management Partners [the San Antonio office of Snowden] is different from any advisory in San Antonio right now,” Franks said. “There are independent RIAs in San Antonio, but they don’t provide the advisory services in terms of planning, estate planning, and open architecture that Snowden does. … We’re unique in San Antonio and in much of Texas.”
Barocas, too, is distinct. He is one of only 1,184 certified private wealth advisors in the country as of 2016. Only six are listed for San Antonio. A native of New York, Barocas earned degrees from Union College and the University of Miami School of Law. He said he expects to grow the office here quickly, not unlike the rapid expansion of Snowden across the country.
Although Franks acknowledges that recent growth, he said, “We’re small by choice. We never want to have 1,000 advisors. We don’t have that desire. It’s not why we’re doing this. The big firms focus on quantity – we focus on quality. If we can get the right people, then we never have to get big.”
Still, he added, financial advisors are coming to him in large numbers. “They are deeply unhappy at these big firms because of the bureaucracy and the way the firms are being managed, which makes it harder and harder to do what they believe is the best thing for their client. They are looking for a better place, and looking at firms like us that provide them with a platform, the technology, and freedom, and more importantly, with a voice and a stake.”
But not every advisor is right for the firm, Franks said. He recalls once hearing the CEO at Merrill Lynch say that culture is overrated.
“That is the day that I knew, ‘We are in trouble.’ Because culture matters a lot,” Frank explained. “All great companies have great culture, and they’re proud of it. To say it doesn’t matter, what that really means is that people don’t matter, because people make the culture. So we deeply care about culture and the client and our financial advisors.”
As a new advisor with Snowden, Barocas said he’ll be hosting events for potential clients in the coming months to build a broader base in San Antonio and help people meet their financial goals.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said of his economic outlook. “I think the market is going to be choppy, that there will be two more rate hikes by the Fed[eral Reserve System]. And usually in the first year of a presidential cycle, it is an up year, so I do believe there will be a correction, but I can’t say when. I’m fairly bullish on the market, but by nature conservative.”