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Wells Fargo Doubles Recruiting; Starts a New Ad Campaign

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Wells Fargo Advisors Recruited 545 veteran financial advisors in the first eight months of 2008 and has nearly doubled that figure in the same period of 2009, attracting 1,054 experienced FAs.

In addition, the majority — 80 percent — of those recruited in 2009 are from the wirehouses, the company says.

Last year, it recruited a total of 766 experienced financial advisors. If it is able to keep recruiting at the current pace, Wells Fargo Advisors could recruit about 1,500 veteran advisors or more.

“The first months of 2009 were extraordinary,” says Chip Walker, who has been leading the firm’s integration and recruiting efforts. “

There’s been an incredible amount of dislocation of advisors in the wirehouse model,” Walker says. That has to do with the fact that there “are so many advisors in the wirehouses,” whereas, in the past, many of them were with regional firms, he explains.

In addition, many advisors have been “forced to look at their options,” Walker adds. “We have had a lot of success recruiting experienced FAs from the wirehouses. There’s no question about it.”

The average industry length of service of recruited veteran FAs is now close to 16.5 years, he says, vs. about 13.5 in 2004. “The increase in the length of service has spiked dramatically in 2009,” Walker explains. Average trailing-12-month fees and commissions have held up well, he adds, and have even increased in some of the brokerage’s FA channels.

As of June 30, the Wells Fargo brokerage business included 15,500 financial advisors in the United States and Latin America and 6,100 licensed financial specialists with roughly $1 trillion in client assets. The firm’s private client group has 11,600 financial advisors, and the bank group has about 2,800 financial advisors. Most of the remaining FAs are in the firm’s independent group.

“We peel the onion,” the recruiting executive says, when it comes to looking at potential recruits. Beyond fees and commissions, other factors the brokerage firm looks at include an advisor’s ability to grow his or her business before the economic downturn and how well he or she held up during the crisis.

As for the firm’s recruiting and sales practices, “We have a consistent, repeatable due diligence process,” he explains, that emphasizes putting the client and the client’s interests first.

Walker also says Wells Fargo Advisors, formed by Wells Fargo’s purchase of Wachovia earlier this year, is now focused on growing as a good operator rather than as a good integrator.

“It’s been over two years since we announced the merger with A.G. Edwards,” he explains, “and in October, it will be exactly two years ago that the merger was finalized.” Some rivals, Walker notes, “are just entering the integration phase.”

Through the legacy A.G. Edwards training program, Wells Fargo Advisors is likely to hire 400-500 new advisors in 2010, according to the executive. “This is a great growth lever,” Walker notes.

“We can compete with any firm out there,” says Walker. “We have the scale and scope of products, services, technology and human capital. We are firmly positioned with a great corporate parent.”

Its corporate parent, Wells Fargo, can help advisors grow their business by providing them with “a steady source of leads and referrals,” he explains. Plus, the brokerage business has a strong regional culture.

“We feel very good when we look at the number of FAs that we’re having conversations with and the responses we get to our multi-channel business model,” explains Walker. The combined financial advisory businesses of Wells Fargo and Wachovia unveiled a new national advertising campaign in mid-September, after introducing the Wells Fargo Advisor brand in May.

“The new advertisements allow us to emphasize Wells Fargo Advisors’ position as the financial advice arm of Wells Fargo, while reengaging with our clients and demonstrating how our union with Wells Fargo creates a brokerage firm that is even more qualified to help our clients achieve their life goals,” says David Monday, executive director of marketing, innovation and growth.

The TV ads can be seen on Sunday morning talk shows, NFL football games and select cable television stations, including CNN, CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, the Weather and Travel channels and ESPN. In addition, a sponsorship message will appear on select PBS programs. Print and online ads will also appear in various publications and on websites.