Merrill Lynch Broker Team with $550 Million in Assets Resigns

Ex-Merrill adviser team launches international-focused boutique

Two Merrill Lynch brokers who managed $550 million in client assets have resigned to launch a boutique advisory focused on international clients, joining a number of small adviser groups to leave big firms to offer more specialized services.

Advisers Elizabeth van Walleghem and Thomas J. Butler III on Tuesday officially launched Maximai Investment Partners in Coral Gables, Fla. The firm is focused on ultra-high-net worth entrepreneurs and families from Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Ms. van Walleghem had been at Merrill, now a unit of Bank of America Corp., since 1992. Mr. Butler worked at Merrill for 28 years.

A Merrill spokeswoman confirmed the departures.

About two years ago, the advisers started to search for another platform to serve clients. Many of their clients had been asking when they were going to start their own firm, Ms. van Walleghem says, largely because they desired more investment options.

The advisers determined that by going independent, they would have more flexibility to meet clients’ needs. “The world is our oyster now as opposed to being limited by the boundary of four walls,” Ms. van Walleghem said.

Last summer, Merrill trimmed its international effort to focus on 29 target countries, primarily Canada and in Latin America, and it curtailed brokers’ ability to travel outside the U.S. The company also announced that brokers who serve international clients would work as part of a specialized team and it raised the minimum account size that those overseas clients need to work with a Merrill broker.

Ms. van Walleghem says those policies played a role in the advisers’ decision to move. At Merrill, the advisers said they had a $2.5 million or $5 million account minimum for new clients depending on the country. Their new firm has a $1 million minimum, Ms. van Walleghem says.

Ms. van Walleghem will work primarily with clients from Venezuela, Peru, Chile, the Caribbean and Europe. Mr. Butler will focus on the firm’s clients from Mexico, Central America and Brazil.

Also joining the advisers are three Merrill Lynch employees. They are launching the firm with the support of Dynasty Financial Partners, a New York-based firm that provides independent adviser teams access to a platform for trading, clearing, research and other support services.

Ms. van Walleghem says the advisers chose to work with Dynasty after hearing success stories from other international advisers who had left brokerage firms and gone independent. “Knowing other similar advisers who made the move made me feel confident we could do it, too,” she says.

Write to Veronica Dagher at