UBS Americas Wealth Management said on Friday it hired at least 14 veteran Merrill Lynch brokers who in total managed more than $2 billion in client assets at Merrill.

The new hires come shortly after Reuters reported that UBS had placed a premium on brokers from Merrill, Bank of America's brokerage unit , by increasing up-front bonuses offered to those who signed before the end of 2011. That move came at the same time that Merrill brokers were about to receive the last of two big payouts on previous incentive plans.

A lot of those guys went over for that reason, said Alan Reed, a New York-based financial services recruiter. Reed told Reuters in December that UBS had increased up-front bonuses to 180 percent of a broker's annual revenue production for those who signed by the end of last year. That was up from about 130 to 140 percent, which had been offered in months prior.

Industry analysts said in early January that they expect to see more defections from Merrill's Thundering Herd of brokers, many already frustrated with changes since Bank of America purchased the firm three years ago, after the award payments are made in late January and early February.

UBS hired two teams in Newport Beach and Pasadena, California who managed a combined $857 million in client assets.

Advisers Margaret Baldwin and Michael Naples, who had each been with Merrill for about three decades generated annual revenue of about $2.4 million. Also in California, advisers Robert Reckinger and James Loynes joined UBS, bringing with them an annual revenue production of roughly $1.3 million.

In Louisiana, UBS hired advisers Jacque Kuchta, Scott Curole, Belinda Laws and Libby Buckland in New Orleans. Together they managed $650 million in client assets and a combined annual revenue production of $2.4 million at Merrill. The team had Merrill roots extending back to the 1980s.

In Texas, two Merrill teams managing a total of $600 million in client assets joined UBS' Beaumont office. Mike Persia and Bradford Klein, of the PKC Financial Group, and Christopher Ohmstede and Jean Sheridan, of the Ohmstede-Sheridan Financial Group, generated combined annual revenue of about $3.8 million.

UBS also made two individual adviser hires from Merrill in Georgia and Michigan: Bruce Smith in Atlanta, Georgia, managed more than $100 million in client assets, and adviser John Meldrum, in Troy, Michigan, managed more than $119 million in client assets. Smith generated about $2 million in revenue annually and Meldrum, about $1.6 million.

Two advisers from Bank of America's Private Bank also joined UBS, in the firm's private wealth division. Maria Tanzola and Carolyn Finer joined UBS in Manasquan, New Jersey. They managed $180 million in client assets and together generated about $1.2 million in annual revenue at Merrill.


UBS also hired eight advisers, who managed more than $466 million total in client assets, from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney , the largest U.S. brokerage.

In Florida, adviser Lucie Sabella joined UBS' Fort Lauderdale office after nearly three decades with Morgan Stanley. She managed more than $117 million in client assets and last year produced more than $1 million in revenue.

In New York, Jamie Rosica and Alex DiMartini joined UBS' Melville office. The advisers, who joined individually, managed more than $119 million in client assets and last year generated about $1.2 million in revenue.

Advisers Marc Hagger and Ricardo Lima joined UBS' Dallas office. They managed about $230 million in client assets and last year produced more than $1.1 million in revenue. In Utah, advisers Terri Yeckley, Allison Smoot and Elizabeth Nielson, of the Sage Group, joined UBS' Salt Lake City office. They did not disclose their individual client assets under management.

UBS' Americas wealth management group is the fourth largest U.S. brokerage by client assets, with about $724 billion in client assets. The firm had just under 7,000 advisers at the end of September 2011, the latest data available.

(Reporting by Ashley Lau in New York; Editing by Jennifer Merritt)