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Wells Fargo loses $500M advisor to RIA founded by breakaway brokers

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A boutique firm is expanding to Seattle with the addition of a former Wells Fargo advisor who managed more than $500 million in client assets.

Michelle Rudd joined Summit Trail Advisors, an RIA founded by former Barclays advisors in 2015 with backing from Dynasty Financial Partners. Rudd had been with the wirehouse for 17 years.

Wells Fargo declined to comment on her departure.

Rudd join as the fifth female partner on Summit Trail’s staff and said that the firm’s high percentage of women was an important reason why she signed on.

“There were many firms I talked to where I would have been the only female. I wanted to be part of a community,” Rudd says.

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The new branch will allow Rudd to specialize in serving ultrahigh-net-worth clients in the Pacific Northwest. She says the Seattle market lacks firms serving the UHNW client. She also pointed to Summit Trail’s technology as another factor, and in particularly highlighted its use of Addepar.

“We think we found a great advisor in a great market,” says Jack Peterson, a managing partner at Summit Trail, adding that the new hire would fill a gap in the region.

In addition to its new Seattle branch, Summit Trail has offices in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. The boutique manages over $5 billion in client assets, according to its SEC filings.

The firm sees itself as a national wealth management boutique and plans to expand to other major cities, and particularly markets in Texas, California and Florida, Peterson says.

Flying advisors to meet with ultrawealthy clients isn’t a good model, he believes, so the firm aims to recruit local planners to open branches in their communities. “If you’re going to be national… you need to be local.”

Recruiter Rob Blevins has seen firms paying higher recruiting fees for advisors in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a growing region too. Seattle’s population skyrocketed 22.4% between 2010 and 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, the nation’s population expanded 6% over that same period.

The area is also home to large corporations such as Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon. “Overtime more people are going out there. Now firms are going there,” Blevins says.

For wirehouse advisors, joining an existing firm founded by breakaway brokers has its advantages, Blevins says. They can relate to one another. “In a wirehouse, you’re a lone ranger. Breakaway RIA culture is a much closer fit. It feels like a family.”

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