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Stifel aims for another aggressive recruiting year

Coming off an aggressive recruiting year in which Stifel bumped headcount a net 57 advisors, CEO Ron Kruszewski expects the firm will see similar results in 2019.

“As I look at our pipeline and the people visiting the firm, I feel good about this,” Kruszewski told analysts during an earnings call Friday morning.

Stifel’s headcount rose to 2,301 advisors at the end of 2018 from 2,244 advisors for the year-ago period, the company reported Friday. The firm also opened 13 new branches last year, staffing those new locations with hires primarily from the wirehouses.

These elite advisors were responsible for more than $9 billion in client assets.
January 28

Responding to an analyst’s question about hiring projections for 2019, Kruszewski declined to go into specifics, but shed some light on the company’s strategic thinking.

“I don’t give numbers in regard to deals and recruitment. But look — over time, as we add advisors, they bring client cash and AUM. That’s why we do it,” Kruszewski said.

Kruszewski-Ronald-Stifel-CEO-Bloomberg

In a quarter in which market volatility dampened asset levels at many firms, Stifel’s private client group reported that assets dipped 1% year-over-year to land at approximately $270 billion. That compares to a 10% decline in retail brokerage assets at Wells Fargo, which also reported that advisor headcount dropped to 13,968 from 14,544 for the same period a year ago.

Despite aggressive hiring efforts, Stifel’s headcount was up just a net 3 brokers from the third quarter due to a slowdown in hiring in December, Kruszewski said.

Still, early indications are that the firm is not letting up on recruiting. Stifel has already hired this month a $1 billion Merrill Lynch team for a new branch office in Fort Worth, Texas. And in early January, the regional BD picked up three advisors managing $325 million, also from Merrill Lynch.

The St. Louis-based firm’s hiring spree last year boosted wealth management revenues in the fourth quarter to $509 million, up 7.5% year-over-year from $473 million.

That was offset by quarterly revenues declines in the firm’s institutional group. Companywide revenue fell 1.3% to land at $793 million for the quarter.

Overall, net income rose to $111 million from a loss of approximately $2 million for the year-ago period, Stifel said.

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