By Ashley Lau
Jan 11 Wells Fargo & Co's U.S. brokerage
business bolstered its adviser force in the final quarter of
2012, helping to expand the company's client asset base at a
time when rival firms have seen more advisers walk out the door.
The company said on Friday its Wells Fargo Advisors unit
grew by 247 advisers in the three months ended Dec 31, bringing
its total U.S. force to 15,414 advisers - a net gain of 151
advisers from the year prior.
Client assets managed by the St. Louis-based brokerage rose
to $1.2 trillion, an 8 percent increase from the same period
last year. Wells Fargo Advisors is the third-largest U.S.
brokerage by adviser headcount and client assets managed,
following Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Bank of America
Corp's Merrill Lynch.
"They've been doing really well and will probably have a
good recruiting year (in 2013)," said California-based financial
services recruiter Ron Edde, noting that Wells' has largely
benefited from growth in its independent brokerage unit.
Wells is the only one of the top four U.S. brokerages -
so-called "wirehouse" firms because of their affiliation with
big banks - to have an option for independent advisers, in
addition to traditional employee advisers.
"It carries some appeal that other firms can't offer," Edde
Both Morgan Stanley and Merrill, which are due to release
their fourth-quarter numbers later this month, reported a
decline in their respective adviser forces during the last
Merrill's adviser force shrank by 75 advisers in the third
quarter, while Morgan Stanley's adviser force declined by
INDEPENDENT GROWTH A BOON
Much of Wells' success in recruiting for the year came from
increased interest in the firm's independent brokerage division,
Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or "FiNet," which caters
to independent advisers who also function as business owners.
"It molds a solid bank with a really entrepreneurial
brokerage platform," said New Jersey-based securities lawyer Tom
Lewis of Stark & Stark. "It's the best of both worlds for a lot
In the fourth quarter alone, Wells added at least 12 teams
that each managed more than $100 million in client assets, based
on moves tracked by Reuters. Five of those teams joined the
company's independent brokerage unit.
Among those recruits was California-based adviser Michael
Kazmer, who managed $620 million in client assets with his team
and joined Wells in early November from Merrill.
Kazmer, who decided to go independent after three decades in
the industry, said he chose to do so with Wells because of the
reputation and market capitalization of the company.
"It gave us a sense of comfort," Kazmer said in an
FiNet managing director Ron Sallet told Reuters in early
January that 2012 was the second-best recruiting year for the
independent division in more than a decade.
"We recognize that one of our advantages is the strength of
the Wells Fargo name," he said. "We think our firm is continuing
to position itself in the market as the firm of choice."
Wells also said in its quarterly report that the portion of
retail brokerage assets held in managed accounts rose 20 percent
year over year in the fourth quarter, boosted by strong net
flows and a run-up in market performance. Managed accounts are
those for which a client is charged a flat management fee based
on the assets in the account.
Wells, the first big bank to report fourth-quarter results,
said on Friday its quarterly profit rose 24 percent to a record
high of $5.1 billion.