FiNet has been the fastest growing channel of Wells Fargo for several years, Christian says.

Wells Fargo Advisors’ (WFC) independent channel has been on a tear. WFA Financial Network, known as FiNet, added 99 advisors in 2014.

“It was a very successful year, with record revenue and earnings, and another solid year for recruiting,” said FiNet President Kent Christian in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

The group includes 1,250 independent FAs. Assets under management stand at $85 billion, up 17% from a year earlier. Plus, the average level of yearly fees and commissions of indie advisors coming on board is $650,000 to $700,000.

“What makes us stand apart in the independent space is the high caliber of advisors that affiliate with us, which is among the highest in the industry,” Christian explained.

“This is purposeful. We are a great place to come and grow, more than any other independent firm on the Street,” he added. “Coupled with our strong brand, we get above-average advisors looking at us and affiliating with us.”

FiNet was the fastest-growing channel within WFA, with its growth pace topping those of the traditional employee-advisor group and the bank channel. “And that’s been the case for several years,” according to Christian.

In 2015, advisor interest is up from last year, he says.

“We are seeing a meaningful increase in interest, not just in the number of advisors kicking the tires — but in the profile of advisors coming to talk to us,” the executive explained. “We are talking with larger producers than we’ve ever seen historically and with more teams than ever before. It’s very exciting.”

Corporate Support

“The parent company loves our growth story,” the FiNet president said. “In addition, when it comes to the wealth management business, [Wells Fargo Chairman & CEO] John Stumpf has gone on the record saying that as things change in the financial world and on the regulatory front, he is looking where Wells Fargo has the best chance to grow and thrive,” he said.

“The wealth-management businesses are a featured area, and within it FiNet stands out as a strong and sustained growth story,” Christian explained. “They love us!”

Future Focus

For further growth, FiNet recently launched three initiatives.

First, it tapped an executive, Daniel Martinez, to better gauge and strengthen advisor loyalty and satisfaction in the independent channel, Christian says.

“We did an extensive survey of the business owners and had a 50%-plus response rate,” he stated. “We learned a lot of things about what they like and what we can improve. It’s going to be a template for us in the home office to work with and use in shaping priorities.”

Second, as is the case across the broader advisor group, more updates are being made to the technology platform, as well as on mobile and digital applications for clients and advisors. These improvements are set to be in place later this year and in 2016.

Finally, FiNet executive John Williamson is leading up efforts to help indie advisors buy other practices in their markets.

“There’s lots of interest, so we have wanted to have the staff and expertise in house to give our advisor other growth avenues,” Christian said.

“We are a strong institution with deep wealth management and bank expertise, as well as broad capitalization, so [advisors] can source their financing [for M&A deals] with us or elsewhere… We are encouraged by the interest and early results.”

— Check out 12 Best & Worst Broker-Dealers: Q4 Earnings, 2014 on ThinkAdvisor.