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Almost 1,300 gone: Wells Fargo’s advisor ranks thin

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Wells Fargo’s brokerage ranks have once again thinned, continuing a downward trend in headcount that began after a fake accounts scandal rocked the bank in 2016.

The bank reported having 13,799 brokers at the end of the second quarter, down 427 from the year-ago period, or a 3% loss. Headcount is also down 1,287 since the third quarter of 2016 when the bank counted 15,086 advisors.

Wells Fargo operates multiple wealth management businesses, including an independent broker-dealer and new RIA channel.

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The bank’s scandals have drawn regulators’ ire, resulting in more than $1 billion in fines and two CEO resignations. The firm is currently searching for a new chief executive.

The lower headcount comes amid stepped-up recruiting efforts this year. The bank, which is offering robust hiring bonuses according to recruiters, said the second quarter was its best for recruiting since 2016. But Wells Fargo would not specify how many advisors it hired.

“We anticipate continued productivity growth even if headcount continues to decline,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “With an aging workforce, we expect ongoing retirements, which is why we launched our new advisor succession program last quarter called Summit. Interest in the program has been very strong, demonstrating that it was the right approach for the business.”

The bank’s brokers, frustrated by bureaucracy and scandal fallout, have jumped to Wells Fargo’s rivals, principally regional BDs and RIAs. More than 100 advisors have quit the firm so far this year, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. Those departing brokers oversaw more than $13 billion in client assets, according to hiring announcements issued by their new employers.

The exits included a team responsible for $1 billion at Wells, which joined independent firm AdvicePeriod.

But even with fewer advisors, Wells Fargo’s wealth management business reported that net income jumped 35% year-over-year to $602 million. The firm attributed the bounce, in part, to last year’s impairment of $214 million related to the sale of its ownership stake in the Rock Creek Group.

Client assets, at $1.6 trillion, were flat. Advisory assets increased 3% to $561 billion.

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