Outgrowing the Employee Model: How an ex-Merrill Advisor Found Autonomy & Abundance in Independence


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A conversation with Jerry Davidse CEO, Presilium Private Wealth


Jerry Davidse discusses his transition from Merrill to building RIA firm Presilium Private Wealth with partner Brook Hart. He shares how they gained the freedom to communicate and create an exceptional experience for their clients, their outstanding portability ratio, uptick of referrals, and more.

About this episode…

Many employee advisors often feel limited in what they can do for clients—particularly when it comes to having the freedom to market and share their unique voice. Or even to communicate without ensuring the message was approved by a higher authority.

Take Jerry Davidse, for example. He started in wealth management at Morgan Stanley, leaving shortly after the Smith Barney merger to join Merrill in 2011.

Over the years at Merrill, Jerry met his business partner Brook Hart, and together they built the business from $70mm under management to over $300mm with a client base composed primarily of executives and founders of biotech and pharma companies.

As a young team, they were starting to feel like they had outgrown Merrill—and were limited in providing what they felt could be an “exceptional experience” for their clients.

Plus, the firm placed restrictions on how they communicated with clients, requiring that all content be reviewed by compliance—a process that took time, making the messages obsolete or watered down and ineffective.

In conducting due diligence, Jerry and Brook realized that they could remove the limitations and offer their clients the best of everything – including timely and creative communications – by building their own independent firm.

So in April of 2022, they launched Presilium Private Wealth with support from Dynasty Financial Partners and Fidelity Investments as their custodian.

In this episode, Jerry shares his journey with Louis Diamond, discussing:Jerry Davidse

  • The things they liked most about Merrill—and why they felt they were “outgrowing” the firm.
  • The choice to go independent—and why they chose Dynasty and Fidelity over other models and options.
  • Their incredible portability ratio—and how they had 90% of their client assets committed in the first six weeks and 100% as of this recording.
  • The influx of referrals they received since their transition—and how the feeling of truly building something “for the clients” trickled down in a positive way.
  • Plus, Jerry offers advice about conducting due diligence—and how his “optimistic” mindset contributed to a successful transition.

Jerry and Brook’s desire for “creativity, autonomy, and vision” demonstrates how transitioning from a world based on limitations to one of abundance can be a real game-changer. Yet it’s Jerry’s advice on building a business for the clients that’s the real takeaway from this episode.

Related Resources

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Beyond Private Equity: RIAs Have More Options Than Ever to Access Capital
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Demystifying Compliance for RIAs: What You Need to Know
A conversation with Christopher Winn, CEO and Lead Consultant, AdvisorAssist. Listen->

IBD vs. RIA Revisited: Two Independent Pathways for Advisors to Consider
When it comes to freedom and control, there are key differences amongst the independent broker dealer (IBD) and registered investment advisor (RIA) spaces that every advisor should be aware of.

Jerry Davidse, CFP®

Jerry Davidse, CFP® has worked closely with leading families across the U.S. as a wealth manager since 2001, advising them on wealth planning, custom investment portfolios and risk management strategies. He believes in clear communication with clients and provides simple recommendations for complex financial decisions. Jerry earned two degrees from the business school at Villanova University in 2001.

Jerry was awarded the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification in 2005 by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. He was previously a Vice President at Morgan Stanley and Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch before founding Presilium Private Wealth in 2022. He was recognized by Forbes in 2021 and 2022 as one of the top wealth advisors in Pennsylvania.

Jerry enjoys traveling, golf, coaching youth sports and has run four marathons. He and his wife live in Radnor, Pennsylvania, with their son, Jake, and daughter, Emma.

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