$2 Million Morgan Stanley Team Goes Indie with Wells Fargo
Emir Culov, who became a financial advisor after emigrating from Bosnia to finish college following the region’s bloody civil war in the early 1990s, has become an independent broker after six years at Morgan Stanley and more than a decade at bank-owned broker-dealers.
The Buffalo, New York-based broker, who was a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley, has affiliated with Wells Fargo Advisors’ “Financial Network” for independent contractors. Joining him are his wife, Amela, who was a Morgan Stanley vice president, and Matthew Richards, who was an advisor on their team.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman confirmed that they joined FiNet through the newly minted Culov Wealth Management in the second week of May. At Morgan Stanley, they were managing about $230 million of customer assets and had produced around $2 million in the previous 12 months, the spokeswoman said. When Culov joined Morgan Stanley from HSBC Securities in March 2012, his team was managing around $175 million and producing $1.3 million, the wirehouse said in a press release.
The Culovs’ decision to work as independent advisers rather than employees continues a long-term trend in the industry by brokers looking for more autonomy and the opportunity to keep more revenue for themselves (while paying for more overhead). But the particulars of the firm they left and the one they affiliated with highlight some particular challenges.
Morgan Stanley left the Protocol for Broker Recruiting in November, making advisors vulnerable to lawsuits and arbitration complaints that could prevent them from calling former clients to jumpstart their businesses. At least one former Morgan Stanley broker has pre-emptively sued the firm to prevent it from stopping his customer-solicitation efforts.
The Culovs’ decision to join Wells Fargo could raise issues with customers concerned about the bank’s fake-account scandal and regulatory and government investigations of its sales practices, said some headhunters speaking on condition of anonymity. Wells has lost hundreds of brokers since the scandal broker in late 2016, but the company’s chief financial officer said this week that its internal investigations of sales conflicts at its broker-dealer and throughout the bank are just about concluded.
Wells Fargo Advisors’ private wealth group employee channel last week hired four brokers from a UBS Wealth Americas office in Illinois who were managing $516 million of customer assets.
Neither of the Culovs were available to speak early Friday morning about their decisions, said a person answering their office phone.
Amela Culov has worked as a registered representative since 2003, beginning with Charter One Securities, and moving together with her husband to HSBC Securities outside Buffalo in the fall of 2006. Emir began at Charter One in 2000, and each worked at HSBC for five years before Morgan Stanley recruited them in 2012. Emir Culov, who has an undergraduate degree from the State University of New York and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology, was Advisor of the Year for HSBC’s upstate division in 2007 and 2009, according to his team biography at Morgan Stanley.
The BrokerCheck records of the Culovs and of Richards, who worked with them at HSBC and Charter affiliate CCO Investment Services, have no disclosure events.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed the team’s departure from the firm’s Buffalo office but declined comment about whether it has or may challenge their efforts to solicit former customers.