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MSSB Vet Runs Morgan Keegan

SuperUser Account posted on January 12, 2011

By Tom Stabile January 12, 2011

Morgan Keegan is aiming to quickly build up a wealth management presence in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., region, and has hired a longtime Smith Barney veteran to lead the charge. James Dornan is now managing director for the Memphis-based regional brokerage, overseeing plans to open up seven offices in the Washington metropolitan area in the next year or two, including a fully stocked branch downtown in the nation’s capital.

Dornan started last month in his new role, after having left Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which formed in a merger in mid-2009. He had been the complex manager for the Washington, D.C., region for the wirehouse, and had a long career with Smith Barney going back to 1993, according to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority records. He left that firm in July.

Dornan now works out of Morgan Keegan’s lone office in the region in Rockville, Md., which it opened several years ago with a former Legg Mason Wood Walker team. Dornan says he plans to first focus on opening the Washington office.

“We’ve already looked at real estate in downtown D.C.,” he adds. “We plan to be open down there in the next couple of months.”

Dornan’s initial focus will be on finding office locations and recruiting advisors and support staff, and it’s clear he’ll be talking to former colleagues in the wirehouse world.

“We’re looking broader than just the wirehouses, but certainly a lot of folks at the wirehouses are looking for something different at this point,” he says. “It creates some opportunity. I know a lot of them and know the reputations out there, and we’re going to be focusing on the best of the best.”

The recruits will likely be a mix of both individual advisors and teams. Dornan says he hopes to staff the Washington office with eight to 15 “high-quality professionals” and then look at hiring additional advisors who are new to the business afterwards. “We’re not going to build one of those 60-advisor branches in the city,” he adds. “We want to establish something unique here.”

The other offices are likely to be of similar size. Dornan says the initial targets beyond D.C. are Alexandria and Tysons Corner, Va., downtown Baltimore, and Bethesda, Annapolis, Lutherville, and Towson, Md., with Columbia, Md., as a likely location down the line. He says those offices will probably also be in the eight- to 15-advisor range in terms of size. Several of those could open this year, and Dornan says he has already fielded interest from advisors in Baltimore and Northern Virginia.

“This is a real aggressive growth strategy,” he says. “My focus is going to be to build market share for Morgan Keegan in this marketplace, the largest market that the firm wants to be in where it doesn’t have a [brokerage] presence. And we feel this is the perfect time to do it, with [economic conditions] starting to pick up.”

The firm is making a “major commitment in terms of resources and personnel to increase our presence in and around our nation’s capital,” says Dick Ferguson, president of the brokerage’s private client group, in a statement. “In our business, it takes talent to attract talent. Jim has been a towering figure in the financial services industry here for many years.”

Dornan’s qualifications for the job are right on target, says Rick Rummage, managing partner of the Rummage Group, a recruiter in the region and a former Morgan Stanley branch manager who knows Dornan well. “If anybody can get it done, it’s Jim,” Rummage says. “His brokers love him, and he’s a hard worker, a great recruiter. He has great relationships with no less than 100 advisors in the D.C. area, and every one of them will at least take a meeting with him.”

Rummage says Dornan was one of many talented senior managers that found themselves out of a position after Morgan Stanley Smith Barney began paring its ranks to accommodate the merger of its two legacy brokerages. Rummage says allowing respected managers like Dornan get away is a mistake for the wirehouses, because these veterans are popping up all over the industry and showing they have influence in attracting advisors to options beyond the big brokerages. “After all of these mergers, there are fewer players, and some advisors are looking around the market,” Rummage adds.

Rummage says there is plenty of room for Morgan Keegan and other regional brokerages to build a presence in the D.C. market.

Dornan started his career as an advisor with Lincoln Financial Planning in Jenkintown, Pa. His experience at Smith Barney included a stint as director of the brokerage’s national training center and more than a decade of branch manager and complex manager roles in Ohio and Washington, D.C. Before he left, he oversaw a complex that included the K Street branch downtown and several offices across the Potomac River in Alexandria.

He now reports to Van Thompson, east region manager for Morgan Keegan out of Lexington, Ky.

Dornan says he met with 11 different firms since last summer as he considered what move to make next. He says Morgan Keegan was most attractive because it has developed a “world-class platform” and showed eagerness to grow.

Morgan Keegan has a full slate of managed account programs, including separately managed account and unified managed account programs that combined have about $2.5 billion in assets. The brokerage has more than 1,000 advisors in offices across the Southeast, Texas, and the Mid-Atlantic, but also has locations in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago and New York.