Wells Picks Up Merrill Broker in New Jersey
Wells Fargo Advisors, which has been sweetening offers to advisors and recruiters in an effort to stanch its outflow of brokers, has hired a Merrill Lynch advisor in New Jersey.
Margaret Hill, who had been with Merrill for nine-and-a-half years, joined a Wells’ “wealth brokerage services” office in Summit two weeks ago, but is not working as a traditional private client advisor. The unit’s more than 3,400 financial advisors offer concierge brokerage, investment management and insurance services to their clients through referrals to brokers at private client group branches and within Wells bank branches.
The unit’s recruiting website implies that the advisors have responsibility for both affluent and high-net-worth clients, but distinguishes them from typical private client group advisors more aggressive client-building business model. “Spend your time serving clients, not looking for them,” it says.
Wells Fargo & Co. has been trying to reverse perceptions that its eat-what-you-kill sales culture was responsible for the fake-account and related scandals that have scarred its reputation for the past 20 months. Wells Fargo Advisors ranks have fallen by almost 700 brokers net, leading the firm to offer recruiters a premium fee for advisors hired into any of its bank, private bank and private client group channels over the next several months.
“Wells Fargo is the only wirehouse right now that’s actively recruiting at all production levels,” said Mark Elzweig, an industry recruiter in New York.
Competitors such as Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial Services have severely cut their recruiting budgets, making exceptions primarily for “franchise” candidates that have $1 million or more in annual production. Merrill Lynch officials imposed a recruiting halt a year ago that they say is still in effect. All the firms are encouraging trainees to join teams and serve as specialists in areas such as financial planning and insurance rather than build books of individual clients.
In addition to offering recruiters a fat 10% of a broker’s trailing 12-month production as a fee to gin up hiring, the firm last year encouraged managers to raise recruiting bonuses to brokers with substantial books of business.
Neither effort has done much to date to combat an ongoing exodus of brokers, but Elzweig said he has some prospects who expressed willingness to talk about Wells once the headlines subside.
Hill, who first registered as a broker with Smith Barney in 2006 and joined Merrill two years later, did not respond to a request for comment about the reasons for her move. A Wells spokeswoman confirmed her arrival and that she had been managing around $70 million in client assets.
At Merrill, which like Wells remains a member of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, Hill had been a senior vice president, according to her website at the firm. The title generally indicates a broker credited with $400,000 to $600,000 of annual production.
A Merrill spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on Hill’s departure.