Wells’ New Deals Attract Morgan Stanley Advisors Down South
The bank-owned broker-dealer’s private client group on Friday recruited five Morgan Stanley producers in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida cumulatively producing $7.5 million, according to sources at both firms.
Eric G. Johnson and Brooks Collins, who generated about $4.3 million of fees and commissions in the previous 12 months in the small town of Decatur, Alabama, led the migration and will establish a Wells office there after a brief sojourn in Birmingham, Wells sources said.
In Ridgeland, Miss., near Jackson, Wells hired T. Scott Robertson III, a sole practitioner who produced around $1.7 million for Morgan Stanley in the previous 12 months, the sources said.
And in Boca Raton, Fla., Steven A. Rodman and Robert A. DeBlasio—who were producing $1.5 million—returned to Wells which they had left in late 2011 to join Morgan Stanley.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed the departures but declined further comment.
Wells Fargo has been keeping a low public profile in announcing brokers it has been recruiting, and the southern hires on the eve of the President’s Day weekend may be only a fraction of its hiring successes.
The broker-dealer has been wary about advertising its recruiting success while its parent company’s fake-account scandal and cross-marketing incentives remain in the spotlight, and while its net broker account across its private client, in-bank and independent channels are still down by almost 1,000 advisors since the scandal broker in late 2016.
But it has quietly been hosting headhunters with paid trips to headquarters to tell its story and remind them that that it will pay them 10% of a successfully recruited candidate’s trailing-12 production, up from the standard industry rate of 6%. It also has fattened signing bonuses for experienced advisors, giving those producing $500,000 and higher twice their T-12 production in upfront forgivable loans and extending attractive deals to lower-level producers as well.
Headhunters said many of the sub-$500,000 producers have been joining the bank-affiliated wealth management units at Wells, but last week’s flurry of exits from Morgan Stanley indicate that the core private client group unit also is having success.
In Alabama, Johnson and Collins did not respond to requests for comment. Their Morgan Stanley web biographies emphasize their good ol’ boy roots, noting that Collins is “a graduate of Decatur High School and Vanderbilt University – where he played football” while Johnson’s highlights his rearing in a military family and his Chattanooga-born father’s retirement to Huntsville when the advisor was 13 years old. “He has always considered Huntsville as home,” it says.
Johnson first registered as a broker in June 1998 with the bank-owned Compass Brokerage (and its AmSouth successor), shifted to Morgan Keegan in late 2007 and joined Smith Barney in 2009 as it was being integrated into Morgan Stanley. Collins entered the industry with A.G. Edwards in 2000, migrated to AmSouth, and similarly sojourned at Morgan Keegan before joining Morgan Stanley in 2011, according to his BrokerCheck history.
Robertson—who worked at Morgan Stanley and its Smith Barney predecessor for 23 of his 25 years as a registered securities rep—declined to comment when reached at his new Wells office in Ridgeland, Miss.
Rodman spent the first third of his 18-year brokerage career with Banc of America Investment Services in West Palm Beach, Fla., before joining Wells Fargo Advisors in Boynton Beach in mid-2007. He left for Morgan Stanley in Boca Raton in late 2011.
DeBlasio also worked at the Wells branch for just over two years before joining Morgan Stanley in Boca Raton in late 2011. He began his brokerage career in July 2008 at David Lerner Associates, where he spent less than a year.
Neither Rodman nor DeBlasio returned calls for comment.