Part 1 of 2: The $5B Breakaway That Led to a $125mm Acquisition Deal
A conversation with Mark Sear and David Hou, Managing Partners of Evoke Advisors
In May of 2008 – just 4 months before Bank of America would acquire Merrill Lynch – one of the biggest breakaway stories in the history of the space hit the Street. Mark Sear and David Hou, managing more than $5B in assets, would leave Merrill—becoming part of an exclusive group of pioneers of the independent movement that would forever change the face of wealth management.
The team started their journey at Goldman Sachs, leaving in 1997 to join Merrill with a reported $1.6B in assets and a good deal of knowledge in working with ultra-high net worth clients.
After their departure from Merrill in 2008, they formed RIA Luminous Capital and grew it to $5.5B in assets—before making history again in 2012.
That’s when they sold the firm to First Republic Bank – itself a Merrill breakaway, of sorts – for a headline-making deal of $125mm—which even Liz Nesvold, who represented First Republic in the acquisition, called a “marquee deal.”
But this incredible story doesn’t end there—because in 2019 Sear and Hou decided to leave First Republic and the rest of the Luminous team to form a new RIA, Evoke Advisors.
Their story is nothing short of amazing on so many levels. First off, to make the break back in 2008 – at a time when independence was in its infancy – meant taking the biggest leap of faith ever. The cottage industry designed to support breakaways was non-existent at the time—it was a “build your own” world. Yet, even with all of the support now available, to split the team up and make the leap again—well, takes some extraordinary mettle.
No doubt, it’s trailblazers like Mark and David who set in motion a movement that has incredible momentum—with more and more advisors opting for the freedom and flexibility of independence every day.
In part 1 of this 2-part episode, the team talks about the first few chapters of their incredible journey, including:
- What drove them to leave Merrill in 2008—and make the leap to independence at a time when it wasn’t in vogue to do so.
- What it was like to build an RIA with limited external support—and what they learned from the process.
- Why they chose to sell Luminous to First Republic—and what factors drove their decision.
- What life was like at First Republic—and how that compared to their experience as employees at Merrill and as an independent firm.
- Why they chose to leave First Republic—and how they explained the move and formation of the new firm, Evoke Advisors, to their clients.
It’s rare access to hear firsthand what it’s like to make the leap to independence not once but twice, plus the overarching motivation in their decision-making process. That is, to create a sophisticated Multi-Family Office focused on serving the best interests of their clients—the latter which is the imperative that drives them.
Part 2 of this episode is now available. Click here to listen in…
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Mark is a Managing Partner at Evoke-ARIS. Mark has served as a financial advisor to wealthy families and institutional investors since 1993. He began his career at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and five years later joined Merrill Lynch to help build the Private Banking and Investment Group. In 2008, Mark and his partners founded Luminous Capital, which First Republic Bank acquired in 2012. While at First Republic, Mark served as a Senior Managing Director. Barron’s and Forbes have ranked Mark perennially as one of Top 100 Wealth Advisors in the country.
Mark received his BS in business from the University of the Pacific (UOP) and an MBA from the Leavy School of Business at Santa Clara University. He was an NCAA collegiate golfer at UOP, and is an active supporter of SCS Noonan Scholars, a foundation providing funding and support for intercity college-bound youth. Mark lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife and has two adult children.
David is a Managing Partner of Evoke-ARIS. He has served as a financial adviser to wealthy families and institutional clients since 1992. David began his career in the Goldman, Sachs & Co. Private Client Services Group and six years later joined Merrill Lynch to help build the Private Banking and Investment Group. In 2008, David and his partners founded Luminous Capital, which First Republic Bank acquired in 2012. While at First Republic, David served as a Senior Managing Director and was a member of the Altair Alternative Investment Committee, the bank’s private investments platform. Barron’s and Forbes have ranked David perennially as one of the Top 100 Wealth Advisors in the country.
David received a BS in economics/business from UCLA and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He is an advisory board member of the UCLA Anderson School Fink Center for Finance and Investments. He also is a trustee and chair of the Finance Committee at Carlthorp School in Santa Monica. David is an active supporter of SCS Noonan Scholars, a foundation providing funding and support for inner-city college-bound youth. David lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife and four children.
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