Four advisors who managed more than $500 million joined Wells Fargo’s independent channel, according to the firm.
In the largest of two moves, advisors Shawn Greseth, Chris Kellett and Donovan Laib left Merrill Lynch to open a new practice with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network in Plymouth, Minnesota. They oversaw more than $400 million in client assets, the say.
In a second move, Dathan Lumpkins left JPMorgan to start Lumpkins Private Wealth Management in Niles, Michigan. He managed more than $111 million in client assets, according to Wells Fargo.
“We looked at everyone and what it came down to was the platform of a major wirehouse with the flexibility of an independent,” Kellet says, adding that his team was especially interested in High Tower and Raymond James.
Local demographics were also a factor. “Minneapolis is kind of like a second headquarters for Wells Fargo,” Kellet says. “There’s a bank on every other street corner.”
The majority of his clients use Wells Fargo for their retail banking so moving all of their finances into one company is a major advantage, he adds.
The moves come as Wells Fargo has suffered from advisor attrition over the past year.
Advisor headcount has dropped in four of the last five quarters amid mounting regulatory scrutiny prompted by several scandals at the bank, including the opening of accounts without customers' permission. In total, headcount at the firm has fallen by more than 300 year-over-year to 14,544 for the fourth quarter. Some industry recruiters say the attrition spike might not be over given fresh reports of new scandals.
Just weeks ago, Wells Fargo disclosed new federal inquiries regarding possible sales misconduct within its wealth management unit.
“Everyone has to take their turn in the hot seat and that doesn’t make it right,” says Kellet, adding that he spoke directly with top executives at FiNet and was satisfied with what they are doing to address any problems.
This isn’t the first time a wirehouse has drawn regulatory scrutiny, Kellet notes, and his clients understand that. “Over the years, all the banks have had their time in the news,” he says.
To help alleviate the loss of advisors, the bank also made changes to attract talent from within. In February, Wells Fargo lowered its fees that it charges employee advisors to move their practice to the bank’s independent broker-dealer. A smaller fee remains in place for advisors exiting their indie unit.
A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch did not return requests for comment. JPMorgan declined to comment.
Several of the new hires have extensive industry experience. Greseth began his career with Merrill Lynch in 1995, per FINRA BrokerCheck records. Kellett started in the industry in 2003 with Waddell & Reed before moving to Merrill in 2004, according to BrokerCheck.
Laib was affliated with PFS Investments in 2001 and 2002 then with Merrill in 2014, per BrokerCheck.
Lumpkins, meanwhile, began his career with Northwestern Mutual in 2004 then moved to Chase before landing at JP Morgan in 2012, per BrokerCheck.