Wells Brokers with $405 Million Leave for Stifel, Cite Small Account Policies
Three West Virginia brokers at Wells Fargo Advisors managing $405 million in client assets joined Stifel Financial this week, citing small household account penalties as motivation for their move.
“We don’t want to get in a situation where we are being told to send certain asset-size clients to a call center,” said Cofindaffer, who also is producing manager for Stifel Nicolaus’ Bridgeport, WV, branch, its first in the state. “That’s not the way people ought to be treated.”
Account minimums that Wells, Merrill Lynch, RBC Wealth Management and other full-service firms have been imposing as they pivot to wealthier clients are particularly irksome to advisors in small markets that are not traditional pockets of wealth.
A Wells veteran in Indiana cited small-account policies when he moved his family team to Stifel in June, as did a Colorado independent broker who joined LPL Financial in May after affiliating with Wells for 38 years.
“I always found it entertaining that someone sitting in an office in a large metro area knows more about my market than I do,” said Coffindaffer, who began his career in 1984 at Wells predecessor Wheat First Securities and returned in 2003 after 14 years at Prudential Securities and Merrill Lynch.
Wells Fargo Advisors’ 2020 compensation plan penalizes private client group brokers with payouts of 20% on household accounts with less than $250,000—up from the previous floor of $100,000. Brokers at Wells typically keep 50% of clients’ fees and commissions after meeting monthly revenue hurdles.
Wells in April modified its calculation of small-account balances in deference to the market’s initial decline in response to the coronavirus economy. The firm also delayed plans to double to $500,000 the amount clients must keep in brokerage accounts to avoid being charged a $300 annual maintenance fee, but the changes didn’t address Coffindaffer’s longer-term concerns.
He also said that he and his colleagues were open to Stifel because they were longtime friends with Kevin Ortmeyer, its local regional director who worked for 24 years at Wells and predecessor firms.
Dotson’s 28-year career at Merrill Lynch, Prudential Securities and Wells mirrored that of Coffindaffer, though she started her career in 1992 at Merrill while he joined that firm in 1989 after five years at Wheat, First. Fox had spent his 26-year career at Wells and predecessor firms Prudential and A.G. Edwards before last week’s move.