It’s hard to comprehend how a broker with almost 34 years’ experience with Merrill Lynch and a client list 500 strong with $1.5 billion in assets under management would find himself on the outside looking in.
But that’s exactly where Thomas Buck was after a March 4 meeting with Merrill’s local managers.
In an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal, Buck told them he went into work that fateful morning with not a care in the world and left an unemployed advisor. That’s a tough break for anyone let alone a man Barron’s considers one of 2014’s top 100 financial advisers
in the U.S. He’s also been number one broker in Indiana for the past five years.
“I was totally blindsided,” Buck told the paper. “I'm thinking I'm going into the back nine of my career and going to leave a nice legacy.”
There are two ways to look at Buck’s career move.
The first is that Merrill Lynch overreacted to the various compliance issues that existed in his client files – poor recordkeeping, inaccurate trade tickets, failure to discuss service level and pricing alternatives with a customer – or they decided that he’d outlived his welcome and decided to throw the book at him.
Whatever the reason RBC Wealth Management concluded that his book was too large to ignore and for now, Buck’s team have been welcomed with open arms.
"Mr. Buck has a long history in this industry and solid reputation of providing excellent client service," RBC spokeswoman Nicole Garrison said in a statement published by industry newsletter On Wall Street. "We are pleased to welcome him and his team to RBC Wealth Management-U.S."
However, if FINRA finds merit with some of the compliance issues cited by Merrill Lynch in its separation agreement with Buck, it’s possible, former Indiana Securities Commissioner Mark Maddox told the IBJ, that FINRA could suspend Buck’s advisory practice making RBC’s move seem slightly desperate.
How desperate we’ll know soon enough.