Merrill Non-public Wealth head to retire, led Florida increase


Donald “Don” Plaus, a veteran Merrill govt who led the Wall Road agency’s efforts to serve ultrahigh web value shoppers and oversaw its personal wealth enlargement in Florida in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, is retiring. 

Plaus will “proceed in his position by means of March 31 and assist to finalize plans for his transition,” an organization spokesperson confirmed in an e mail. 

Plaus went from delivering newspapers and dealing in eating places as a younger man to operating a top-tier wealth store catering to a number of the world’s richest households. He spent greater than 32 years at Merrill, Andy Sieg, the president of Merrill Wealth Administration, mentioned in a press release.

Don Plaus, the outgoing head of the Non-public Wealth Administration, Worldwide and Institutional teams at Merrill Wealth Administration.

Financial institution of America

Merrill did not announce who would substitute Plaus within the high-profile position however mentioned extra particulars would come quickly. Contenders could embody two long-time staff: Josh Moody, who leads the personal wealth unit in Florida, and Gregory McGauley, the personal wealth regional supervisor for the Northeast, according to unnamed sources cited by AdvisorHub. Requested to touch upon these names, a Merrill spokesperson mentioned: “relating to the successors, nothing to share.”

Plaus is the top of the Non-public Wealth Administration (PWM), Worldwide and Institutional teams at Merrill Wealth Administration. PWM serves shoppers who’ve a minimal of $10 million in property and offers help to people, households and their companies. It employs 200 personal wealth advisor groups, along with “specialists in areas corresponding to funding administration, concentrated inventory administration and intergenerational wealth switch methods,” the spokesperson mentioned. 

Since Plaus took over the personal wealth enterprise in 2017, its whole variety of shoppers has grown over 30% and shopper balances have swelled 46%, the corporate mentioned. 

Between 2021 to 2023, which incorporates the pandemic years that noticed an exodus of the ultra-rich and corporations from high-tax states like New York to tax-free Florida, Merrill “doubled the variety of personal wealth advisors serving ultrahigh web value shoppers in Florida from 20 to greater than 40,” the spokesperson mentioned. 

“Don has made lasting contributions to the Merrill enterprise and tradition,” Sieg mentioned within the assertion. “Don has been a mentor and position mannequin to many.” 

In a 2021 online interview with Sanvi Belani, a highschool scholar at Florida personal college Lake Highland Preparatory College who runs a university and careers prep web site referred to as Choices EDU, Plaus shared ideas on his profession in wealth administration and mirrored on his many years with the herd at Merrill Lynch, which has since gained Financial institution of America as its guardian firm. 

“I got here from a fairly modest background,” Plaus mentioned, including that not having wealth made him serious about finance and cash. 

“I’ve labored since I’ve most likely been round 12 years outdated, doing nearly every little thing from a paper path to reducing grass to working in eating places. I’ve at all times needed to contribute at house.”  

He attended school at SUNY Albany and majored in economics and enterprise administration. Plaus obtained his first style of life on Wall Road when school pals had siblings who labored there, he mentioned. 

“We went and visited sooner or later, I believe it was one of many huge monetary corporations. And I used to be hooked,” Plaus mentioned. “There was quite a lot of power.” 

In 1985, Plaus started his monetary profession straight out of faculty on the now-defunct Brooks Weinger Robbins & Leeds, based on his BrokerCheck profile. He then bounced amongst totally different brokerage corporations together with Greentree Securities Corp., J.F. Lowe & Firm, the previous Smith Barney Harris Upham, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, earlier than returning to Merrill Lynch in 2006. 

Plaus spent the remainder of his profession at Merrill, working his approach up. He began as a monetary advisor and was finally promoted to Gross sales Supervisor, District Gross sales Supervisor, Regional Managing Director, and Division Govt for the Northeast and Southeast. In 2017, he was tapped to interchange Sieg’s brother Phil Sieg as the top of the Non-public Banking & Funding Group unit. That unit was later rebranded as the PWM group, the corporate spokesperson mentioned. 

Plaus mentioned he had moved many instances in his profession as he was requested to relocate for his new management roles. When he was first promoted into management, he needed to receive an inside administration accreditation after which cross a weeklong pass-fail evaluation, he mentioned. As soon as he handed, he needed to transfer his household from New York Metropolis right down to Greensboro, North Carolina inside a few months.

Since then, he is moved to Charlotte, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; and, extra lately, Miami. Though Plaus reportedly wasn’t thrilled at first concerning the concept of transferring to Florida in 2015, he got here round to it after having fun with its prime quality of life, meals and out of doors actions. The transfer positioned him to assist cater to the agency’s ultrarich shoppers with each digital webinars and in-person occasions. 

“I at all times inform those who in management, it’s important to be versatile and in lots of situations, be prepared to maneuver round,” Plaus mentioned within the 2021 on-line interview.  

Requested what he preferred and disliked most about his job, he was mum on the query of what he did not like. However what he discovered most stimulating, Plaus mentioned, was constructing robust groups and dealing with the extremely profitable and deep-pocketed shoppers — who he could not title for privateness causes, though a number of are possible family names. 

“Forbes runs an inventory of the highest 100 wealthiest individuals on this planet. 25 of these are our shoppers inside Non-public Wealth,” he mentioned. “It is an honor to serve them.” 

Plaus mentioned he had a shopper advisory board made up of 35 personal wealth shoppers, who suggested the agency on its actions.  

“I am at all times amazed that they run profitable companies and reside profitable lives, and but have the time to, on a volunteer foundation, actually assist us with our enterprise,” he mentioned.