Capital Buzz: Middleburg money manager seeking recruits

Veteran money manager John Simmons is on the prowl to recruit talent to Middleburg-based Washington Wealth Management, which is sure to shake up the local and national money management space.

“Recruiting will be a big piece of our strategy, no question,” said Simmons, 47, who is well known in the wealth management field from his years at Merrill Lynch’s Washington office and then as Morgan Stanley’s regional director in San Diego, where he still has a home.

“We have a major focus in the D.C. market because it’s such a great market and because we have a lot of experience in the area,” said Simmons, adding that the Middleburg firm — located on Route 50 within a short gallop of super-rich estates bearing names like Mellon, Mars and Johnson — is searching for talent nationally as well.

Simmons is president of the firm. Ross Wilkinson, his former colleague at Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, is director of business development. Another former Merrill Lynch manager, Tony Sirianni, is the firm’s chief executive.

“I’m sure he will be coming hard and fast after the big adviser teams in the D.C. area across ML and MSSB [Morgan Stanley Smith Barney],” said one local financial wag. “I’m sure that those offices are pretty scared of that.”

Washington Wealth Management, founded last year, has a staff of 15 and is located on Main Street in the middle of downtown Middleburg.

The Buzz Hears . . .

Progressive Insurance is launching Snapshot in Washington; the program allows drivers to earn up to 30 percent discounts based on driving habits.

The insurer sends them a device that fits in the palm of their hand and plugs into the on-board diagnostic (OBD) port of their car. The device records and sends the driving data to Progressive.

After 30 days, customers will find out if they’re eligible for a discount. People who drive more safely and log fewer miles are likely to qualify.

The District-based Knowland Group, a software company that provides products and services to the hospitality industry, has developed a new app for the iPhone and Android called Smart Phone Leads. “Point your phone at a building and it shows you all the groups in the building who have held events in hotels, includes past meeting activity and meeting planner name/phone number info,” says Knowland founder and chief executive Mike McKean.

Moorenko’s, the Silver Spring ice cream company, has bought a new truck and is expanding into Whole Foods in Richmond. Next is Charlottesville. Moorenko’s is also in 25 Giant stores, mostly in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.

Smathers & Branson, the Bethesda-based purveyor of preppie needlepoint accessories like belts, key fobs, cummerbunds and coasters, is now carried at Neiman Marcus. Look for a new Web site soon.

• Speaking of the preppie set, Falls Church-based Tin Cup, which makes stencils for golf balls, was talking to retailers and media in New York City last week at the Holiday Gift Guide Show at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.

MOMS Organic Market founder Scott Nash signed a lease to move his flagship Rockville store from Parklawn Drive to a 15,000-square-foot former Staples store a mile away on Randolph Road. The new digs include a 150-space parking lot and room to put corporate offices upstairs. The move is planned for this fall.

Hotel safety

The Dupont Circle Hotel and Normandy Hotel — part of the Doyle Collection — aren’t taking any chances.

Following the arrest and indictment of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a New York City hotel maid, the two local hotels are instituting new policies and equipping all maids with a panic alarm button to wear during work.

All rooms will have door stoppers to hold doors open, and rooms will be cleaned with the door propped open if hotel guests are present.

“These recent incidents in hotels in New York City prompted us to reconsider our policies,” said Scott Dawson, the Washington area general manager for the Doyle Collection.

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