The Ertmann Foster Knight Group

Private Wealth Advisors
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We provide wealth management solutions and personalized attention to a limited number of wealthy individuals and families. We combine our experience and understanding of complex financial needs with the broad capabilities of a global institution to help address your goals.

Meet the Team

The private wealth advisors with Merrill Private Wealth Management are rigorously trained to help meet your specialized needs with relationships based on trust and personalized service.


Merrill is proud of our advisors who’ve received recognition from financial industry publications or directly from Bank of America Corporation. We believe they are setting the standard for exemplary client service.

James Ertmann

Benjamin Foster

Strategies designed to help you achieve your goals

As a client of Merrill Private Wealth Management, you have access to services and resources ordinarily reserved for the world’s largest institutions. We work with individuals, families spanning multiple generations, business owners and executives. Using a goals-based wealth management approach, we put our clients at the center of every personalized strategy.

Our Approach

A Commitment to Service

Merrill Private Wealth Management is committed to providing a select group of clients with highly personalized one-on-one service. When you work with us, our knowledgeable, rigorously trained private wealth advisors will gain a deep understanding of your goals, help you develop a multigenerational wealth strategy, and help you update your strategy as needed. We are committed to providing you access to the investment insights of Merrill and the banking convenience of Bank of America, and Merrill will continue to invest in client tools and new technology to enhance your overall experience as you and your private wealth advisor pursue what’s most important to you.

Our Philosophy

We believe your unique goals should be at the center of all of your financial decisions and form the foundation of your financial strategy. Because significant wealth requires customized goals-based financial strategies, we believe in building lasting relationships with a limited number of clients, taking the time to understand your most important priorities for today, tomorrow and your long-term future. Our philosophy celebrates collaboration. Working with a team of specialists, we draw on the resources and insights of a global financial institution to create strategies that reflect your aspirations for yourself and current and future generations of your family. Finally, we believe that while significant wealth brings complex challenges, our experience, passion and perspectives can help you simplify your life.

Experience Matters

Ertmann Foster Knight is the result of a carefully crafted marriage of two fundamental business strategies: exemplary investment prowess and exceptional service.

Jim Ertmann and Ben Foster, steeped in the rigors of finance as taught by the University of Chicago MBA program and honed on the front lines of Goldman Sachs, Lehman and Barclays decided in 2015 that the ultra-high net worth clients whose trust they had earned would be best served by the significantly expanded services of Merrill Private Wealth Management.

Barry Knight joined Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in 1995 intent on morphing the institutional investment consulting practice he had at Kidder Peabody into a team built to deliver the highly competitive white glove service needs of public company C-Suite executives and private company entrepreneurs.

Now a team of eight, with offices in Chicago and West Palm Beach and clients all across the U.S., Ertmann Foster Knight serves about 90 clients who have entrusted them with over $864 million of assets as of 06/2023. On the team are three University of Chicago Finance MBAs, two Analysts that hold the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, an Advisor that holds the Certified Investment Management Analyst designation and two dedicated Private Wealth Associates.

Over the course of their combined experiences, Jim, Ben and Barry have taken on the role of consiglieres. They have helped clients navigate selling their private businesses, taking companies public, merging companies, the purchase and sale of real assets, family legacy and philanthropy planning, pre-nuptial agreements, divorces and more.

Backstopping the core team is access to the substantive depth and breadth of banking services offered by Bank of America and the investment due diligence of Merrill, access to the fiduciary services of Bank of America Private Bank as well as the specialty family resources of Merrill Private Wealth Management collectively can provide. 

Ertmann Foster Knight strives to deliver integrated, goals driven investment strategies and tactics combined with the highly personal and friendly service of a small town bank tasked with making our clients’ lives simpler.
Trust, fiduciary, and investment management services are provided by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC, and wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”), and its agents. Bank of America Private Bank is a division of Bank of America, N.A.

Attention to Detail

Substantial wealth changes one’s needs and expectations and brings unexpected complexities and challenges. Ertmann Foster Knight helps you navigate the day-to-day pathways and significant crossroads of wealth. We help you feel more confident and secure about your present, your future, and your legacy so that you and the people you care about can enjoy not only success, but significance.

Serving a select group of affluent and ultra-affluent clients throughout the United States, we have built our team as a single source for multiple priorities: access to family office services, trust and estate planning services, access to customized credit and lending from Bank of America, investment management, luxury goods acquisition, and philanthropy. We are intricately involved in clients’ financial lives – both day-to-day and long term. We look to have an immediate and lasting impact on the clients we serve by streamlining finances, coordinating initiatives across external advisors, broadening access to global resources and restoring time to spend doing other things.

We limit our engagements to a small number of clients. This focus not only gives us the time to understand your needs and wants, it allows us to be readily accessible and accountable. The one-on-one personalized relationships that we develop help foster an enduring trust and mutual respect. Through regular interaction with you and your family, we learn about your priorities, concerns and desires. We review multiple aspects of your financial life to help you create the future as you see it.

Trust and Confidence

We clearly understand that what most clients really care about is pursuing the goals that matter to them. We help clients pursue personally meaningful outcomes. Through our interactive process we help clients 1) define goals and priorities, 2) understand the “why” that drives the decisions of each family member, 3) optimize resources and 4) choose effective strategies. Over time, we make necessary adjustments to help keep clients moving toward these important personal goals.

When it comes to investment management, we utilize traditional and non-traditional managers who have made it through Merrill’s extremely rigorous due diligence process and our own team’s additional review and analysis.  We seek to help you identify how much downside risk exposure you are willing to take and then match that to a mix of strategies designed to help you stay within your volatility guidelines.

We have an unparalleled desire to serve you as you’ve never been served before. We are transparent about the fees we charge. We document our conversations with you so we are both certain that we have heard each other. We strive to exceed your expectations. And, of course, because we are accustomed to working with clients of significant wealth and public profiles, we know the need for strict confidentiality. 

Let's have a conversation

Your dedicated Merrill Private Wealth Management team is ready to help you pursue what’s most important to you.

Our Vision

For clients of substantial means, Merrill Private Wealth Management provides an experience that is both powerful and personal. We are dedicated to helping you pursue your goals for today while developing an approach designed to support your family members for the years to come.

Your private wealth advisor and team of specialists work with a limited number of clients, enabling them to focus their time, training and passion on helping you simplify your personal and business finances and prepare your next generation.

Boutique-like service with the access to the investment resources of Merrill and banking convenience of Bank of America

We combine the personalized attention and feel of a smaller firm with the power and insights of a global financial institution, creating financial strategies tailored to your unique situation.

A relentless commitment to transparency and customized strategies

As our client, know we are working in your best interests, providing goals-based financial strategies designed to anticipate and help meet your evolving financial needs.