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What's fast-growing Stifel missing?

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Stifel has been vying to be the next wealth management Powerhouse under Ronald Kruszewski’s leadership. The firm has grown to 7,000 employee brokers from 800 since he took the job in 1997.

Much of this growth, as detailed in this month’s feature story, has come in the past decade through more than 20 M&A deals, including Stifel’s purchase of Barclays’ wealth management unit. However, the St. Louis-based Stifel still isn’t a household name with advisers.

What should Kruszewski’s next move be?

Recruiters say he may want to consider buying advertising and possibly some naming rights. Advisers will join a firm their clients know, says Bill Willis, CEO of financial services recruiting firm Willis Consulting.

“If an adviser goes there and has to start presenting the financials, or suggesting the client go to the website, it just makes it more difficult without the instant name recognition,” says Willis, who’s based in Palo Alto, California.

Plus, advisers with $450M in combined AUM join Benjamin Edwards.
October 31

Willis, who has recruited for Stifel, admits he hasn’t felt Stifel’s presence on the West Coast. “I think it’s a great firm, but if there’s one thing they don’t have it’s name recognition, specifically among customers, and I don’t think that happens overnight,” he says.

Recruiter Michael King, who works in New York, echoes that thinking. “If clients recognize a name, and it’s a positive, that helps brokers,” King says.

He points to Stifel competitor Raymond James, which has been on a recruiting hot streak in recent years. Raymond James has been ramping up advertising on TV and radio and the firm also has its name on the stadium that’s home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, near its corporate home in St. Petersburg.

One firm name expected to suffer in the advisory recruiting wars is Wells Fargo after its unauthorized accounts scandal. King says the firm’s name previously was synonymous with integrity.

“Wells Fargo is now in a negative situation for brokers, because of the bad press,” he explains. “Reputations do matter. I feel they won’t draw people as much as they did before.”

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