ON THE MOVE-Wells bolsters indy broker unit with veteran teams

July 20 Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:34pm EDT

July 20 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co added two veteran adviser teams to its independent brokerage division in late June, bolstering its broker force in New Jersey and New York.

The advisers, who managed a total of $379 million in client assets at their old firms, came from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Oppenheimer & Co and RBC Wealth Management. They joined Wells' retail brokerage firm as independent advisers.

"When you run an independent practice, you can look out for the best interests of your clients," said Steven Dichter, who moved from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney with his partner Philip Pappas in Melville, New York. "We liked the fact that we can be independent but with a household name."

Dichter and Pappas joined Wells as an independent team and now run their own practice. The advisers spent six years at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the brokerage owned jointly by Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, where they managed $204 million in client assets at the firm. The pair generated $1.2 million in annual revenue last year.

Also on the move, advisers Jack Wiener and David Hammer joined Wells as a team in Florham Park, New Jersey, where they opened Florham Park Wealth Advisors, LLC, an independent practice affiliated with Wells.

Wiener had been an adviser at RBC Wealth Management, a division of the Royal Bank of Canada , while Hammer had been an adviser at Oppenheimer & Co. The two advisers managed $175 million in client assets and generated $1 million in annual revenue last year.

"Independence is really picking up," said Wiener, a two-decade industry veteran. "I feel much more connected to my clients... It's your own practice, nobody is going to call and go after your clients and you don't have to worry about what the company wants you to sell," he said.

WELLS ADDS TO INDY UNIT

The move of veteran advisers into the independent space has been a boon for Wells Fargo's independent brokerage division, known as Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or "FiNet," which caters to advisers who open their own practice and also function as business owners.

More than half of the roughly $2 billion in client assets managed by advisers joining Wells in June came from those joining FiNet, based on moves tracked by Reuters.

Wells also added independent adviser practices in California, Connecticut and Florida in June. The company now has more than 530 practices across the United States included in its independent brokerage unit.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which also has a traditional employee broker-dealer and banking division, has the third-largest U.S. brokerage by client assets after Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Bank of America's Merrill Lynch.

The brokerage business, based in St. Louis, has more than 15,000 advisers with roughly $1.2 trillion in client assets among its brokerage subsidiaries. Roughly $52.7 billion of those assets come from its independent unit.

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