Independent registered investment advisory firm Merit Financial Group has partnered with two other independent financial advisers: Botsford Financial Group and Financial Development Systems.

The move expands Merit’s nationwide reach and capabilities. All told, the three firms employ 60 financial professionals and manage approximately $2.6 billion of client assets.

Rick Kent, Merit’s president and founder, says the strategic combination will support the firm’s efforts to serve advisers, plan sponsors, benefits consultants and retail investors in the qualified retirement plan market segment.

“By joining forces now, the advisers and clients of each of our firms will benefit with access to enhanced strategies, experience and capabilities that weren’t immediately available to our businesses on a stand-alone basis,” Kent says.

The alliance with Botsford and FDS will support Merit’s plans to focus on three core sets of services: independent financial advice for employees and their families; financial wellness options for retirement plan sponsors, advisers and third-party benefits consultants, and a comprehensive suite of supervisory jurisdiction services for independent retirement plan advisers affiliated with LPL Financial—the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.

Botsford, based in Frisco, Texas, is a financial planning firm for high net-worth clients that specializes in retirement and asset preservation planning for successful business owners and senior corporate executives.

Founder Erin Botsford says that under the partnership her firm “will continue to provide our clients with the white-glove treatment they expect and deserve, while investing heavily in enhanced services for their needs.”

FDS, headquartered in Atlanta, is an independent advisory firm that provides holistic wealth management services, including investment management and retirement planning. Within the partnership, it will operate under the Merit brand and platform and Jody Owenby, previously president of FDS, will become a senior partner at Merit. Greg Gerhard, previously FDS’ COO and CFO, will also become a Merit partner, as well as its chief internal strategy officer.

Kent says Merit’s new “dream team” gives it the breadth of knowledge and expertise it needs to serve every category of client, from neophyte investors to high-net-worth executives.

“It will enable us to ramp up our efforts to partner with likeminded advisers,” he says, “who are looking for turnkey investment strategies and continuity and succession planning services for their clients.”

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