In the MacKinnon family, even mom’s request to tone down the shop talk does little to temper the financial chatter at weekly Sunday dinners.

With two grown sons and one daughter in the financial industry in the Boston area (and a father who’s retired from a banking career), it can be hard sometimes even to wedge the Red Sox into the family discussion.

“Between the three of us in investing.... we tend to monopolize the conversation at bit,” says Brian MacKinnon, a financial advisor and vice president of wealth management at Morgan Stanley in Boston. “Tim’s wife and my wife have heard more than they’ll ever need to about financial markets.”

Brian and Tim are team members in an unusual arrangement that has these Morgan Stanley advisors plying their trade at a local bank; a rare crossover between the wirehouse and bank channels.

And while their focus on work may make for some stodgy family gatherings, the intensity is great for their clients at Needham Bank.

Brian began his advisory career in 2002. By 2007, he was working for Smith Barney at a Citibank branch with a territory that included Needham. And when Citi sold Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley in 2009, Brian and his brother Tim (who also worked there), found themselves without a bank branch.

Since they had grown to embrace the bank model and believe in the value of the branch, they had little interest in working for a Morgan Stanley wealth management location. So they went looking for a bank to partner with.

Meanwhile, Needham Bank had grown interested in launching an advisory practice of its own—or at least having access to reps for their own customers.

So the brothers struck an agreement with Needham Bank allowing them to work with its customers.

Bank advisors tend to be an in-house position, employees of a bank or credit union—or, technically, employees of one of the third-party marketers. But in this case, the brothers MacKinnon were still Morgan Stanley wirehouse advisors. So their new arrangement with Needham Bank, which allowed them to work with the bank’s customers, mirrored their former situation with Citibank and Smith Barney.


Meeting clients two to three days a week in Needham, MacKinnon and his brother begin by drafting financial plans for prospects.

This provides clarity into the clients’ current financial situation, while also giving the advisors a view into their financial history, along with assets that may be with other institutions.

“If we can sit down and talk about financial planning, we can have a window into their balance sheets,” says MacKinnon. “We can see what they have and the bank can see what they have. And then we can work with the bank about how to transition assets to the bank, and to Morgan Stanley accounts.”

While embedding a Morgan Stanley advisor inside a bank is certainly not the norm, the arrangement is also not completely unique, according to MacKinnon.

He says that Morgan Stanley has had a few other partnerships similar to his. He sees the arrangement as offering a competitive advantage, particularly today, as many customers who left big institutions following the recession migrated to community banks, which then benefited from “tremendous growth with new accounts,” he says.

As for Needham Bank, MacKinnon says the link to an outside advisor opens their doors as well to additional outside assets.

A traditional bank advisor often will have a focus on keeping a client’s deposit relationships with the bank, he says. But in his case, “it doesn’t matter to me what they have on deposit at Needham. What matters is whether I can get them to tell me the bigger picture. It’s a very different value proposition.”

That proposition starts with MacKinnon and his brother focusing on how they can help prospects secure a lifestyle that they want, with the assets they have, for their future retirement years.

Rather than constructing a straight portfolio to start, the two look at what clients need and want—and then use those factors to dictate the asset allocations.

They look mostly at the big-picture macro decisions, leaving the smaller decisions—whether a client ends up with a Chevron or Exxon bond in their mix—in the hands of a Morgan Stanley institutional money manager.

Overall planning is his focus, which is why neither he nor his brother tend to work too much with transactional clients—stock jockeying is not their bread and butter. That doesn’t mean the two don’t have clients who sometimes want to leave some funds aside in a trading account to manage on their own. But MacKinnon generally tries to discourage this whenever possible.


While Tim focuses mostly on the portfolios and those details, MacKinnon spends more of his time building and managing the relationships with their clients.

The brothers work together with a unique level of trust, and a connection, they say, that clearly stems from their family bond.

“I feel as if I am responsible because Brian is depending on me to get it done,” says Tim. “It drives you harder because family is depending on you to get it done.”

Going into the financial world was almost a given for the two. With a father who was a banker for 40 years at Bank of America before he retired in 2009, MacKinnon even had an internship with Fleet Bank while still in college. While he imagined himself, initially, as a banker, a meeting with a financial advisor changed his mind.

He realized that bankers, as they move up the ladder, usually shift their attention and time away from clients and more toward management—not the direction he wanted for himself.

Today, MacKinnon is dedicated to his clients—and already thinking about how to expand the family business, and service to investors, by bringing his younger sister Jillian into the practice.

A financial planning associate with Morgan Stanley for the past four years in Boston, Jillian is still completing training and earning licenses that MacKinnon believes are useful for her. But her eventual alliance with her brothers is a “primary objective” for the team, he says.

MacKinnon already sees the advantages his sister will bring to the practice, predominately because of the nine year age difference between him and his sister—and her ability to reach new clients, both younger and older.

MacKinnon explains: He feels that he and his brother have a competitive edge by being in their 30s, compared to older bank reps, because prospective clients who are currently close to retirement may feel more assured their advisor won’t retire before they do. And Jillian can extend that timeline even further.

One unknown: the effect of Jillian’s future partnership on family dinners. MacKinnon laughs, admitting that he and his brother find it difficult to take a day off, particularly with so much of the family embedded in the business. “Everyday is a work day at the house,” he says with the hint of a smile in his voice. “But they’re used to it.”

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