A $1 billion team has left Wells Fargo to go independent with HighTower, which is coming off a robust recruiting year, having picked up a combination of 14 teams and tuck-ins in 2016, according to the firm.

HighTower says those 2016 recruits represented about $4 billion in AUM.

Left to right: Jay Rolfe, Eileen Ortega, Jim Williams, Michael Skowfoe of the Fortress Wealth Planning.
Left to right: Jay Rolfe, Eileen Ortega, Jim Williams, Michael Skowfoe of the Fortress Wealth Planning.

Michael Parker, chief development officer, says they expect to keep up, and even possibly exceed, last year's recruiting pace in 2017. He attributes the growing adviser interest in HighTower to industry-wide trends (independence remains a popular option with top wirehouse breakaways) as well as specific aspects of HighTower. The firm's platform, fiduciary mindset and open-source, multi-custodial approach appeal to advisers, Parker says.

Plus, he adds, success breeds success.

Slideshow
Mega breakaways: Largest teams to go indie in 2016
The biggest advisers to go it alone this year managed over $13 billion in client assets.

"There's now a demonstrated track record over several years. And prospects can talk to our advisers to see what the experience is like," Parker says.

HighTower now has over 190 advisers operating from offices in 26 states. The Chicago-based firm has about $36.5 billion in assets, and has also started attracting independent RIAs onto its platform. IronGate Partners was the first to do so last year.

'THE ONLY OPTION'
The firm's newest recruits formed Fortress Wealth Planning in Jacksonville, Florida. The team is comprised of Founding Partners Michael Skowfoe, Eileen Ortega, Jay Rolfe and Jim Williams.

"Independence was the only option we considered," Skowfoe says.

He first heard about HighTower about two years ago, and the team, after doing its due diligence recently, was attracted to the firm's culture and platform, Skowfoe says.

In addition, the team wanted to affiliate with a fiduciary-friendly firm, and HighTower fit the bill, he adds. "That was one of the most important decisions."

Skowfoe had been with Wells Fargo for 16 years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. The team serves clients primarily in Florida who are entrepreneurs, business owners and families. He said their emphasis is on planning.

"That's the crux of our mission statement. It's very important to us. Planning, planning and planning – we really can't stress that enough," he says.

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