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Former Merrill Lynch advisors launch new firm

Avantra Family Wealth's team consists of, from lef to right, Kim Lee Kenawell-Hoffecker, founding partner and senior family wealth advisor; Steve Thompson, partner and family wealth advisor; Sean Hoffecker, partner and family wealth advisor; Frank Collins, founding partner and senior family wealth advisor; and Wade Hoffman, partner and chief compliance officer. - (Photo / Submitted)

Necessity is the mother of invention. And many times, a job loss is the father of new business.

That was how Frank Collins found himself launching an independent wealth advisory firm. After eight years overseeing about 145 employees for Merrill Lynch’s Central Pennsylvania offices, he found himself without a job when the company reduced its number of markets in 2015.

“At the age of 61-and-a-half, I was faced with, ‘What’s next?'” Collins said.

The answer turned out to be Avantra Family Wealth, an independent wealth advisory firm headquartered in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County. Collins and Kim Lee Kenawell-Hoffecker, another former Merrill Lynch adviser, opened the business at the end of July.

Avantra is a concierge-style office with services for everyone from retirees to younger generations who are still working to accumulate assets. The firm’s eight-person team consists entirely of former Merrill Lynch advisers, who collectively managed about $250 million in client assets.

Going independent was an idea Collins and Kenawell-Hoffecker had long discussed but never pulled the trigger on until Collins found himself looking for a job. They were attracted in part to the increased flexibility that would come with working independently, including have the ability to offer clients more products and having access to more research resources.

Still, the path to independence was not an easy one. Collins had about 200 meetings with other advisers, business owners and anyone else who could help over the past year and a half to figure out the logistics of running his own firm. 

Collins and Kenawell-Hoffecker ultimately partnered with Dynasty Financial Partners to help narrow down vendors and provide compliance, operational and other support for the fledgling business.

Collins sees independent firms becoming a trend as advances in technology make going solo easier than ever. Several other midstate advisers, in fact, have also started independent-focused businesses in recent months. 

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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