By Jed Horowitz
NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - A family brokerage team who had been at Wells Fargo Advisors for more than a decade and manage more than $300 million of assets for wealthy clients resigned on Wednesday to start an independent registered investment advisory firm.
Gerald Strid, his sons Erik and Paul and two other brokers folded the Strid Wealth Management Group at Wells' Berwyn, Pennsylvania, branch to form Concentus Wealth Advisors in King of Prussia. The group offers planning services and has discretion to select investment managers for about 150 wealthy families. They plan to continue requiring clients to have a minimum of $1 million of assets and plan to start a family office with a higher minimum.
"We were already a long way to feeling independent but we got to the point where it was time to take the last step and be totally objective and transparent (about the practice)," said Erik Strid, who joined his father's team in 1992 when they were at Merrill Lynch.
"There were certain instances where there was a shadow of doubt in clients' minds about where the 'vig' was for the bank," he said, using a gambling term for interest kept by the house or lender.
The Strids also wanted more equity in their practice and to be less tied to long-term bank stock incentives whose value they cannot control. Despite some incentives that bank-owned brokerage firms give advisers to sell products, the Strid team was successful enough to do what was best for clients without bank interference and benefited from Wells' vast resources, said Erik Strid.
Wells Fargo Advisors is a broker-dealer subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co., the fourth-biggest U.S. bank company.
The Strids are part of a small but growing trend of traditional stockbrokers who are becoming independent advisers, typically offering fee-based investment accounts and broad financial planning services.
The number of wealth managers who registered as investment advisers grew at an annual rate of 8 percent between 2004 and 2012, while brokers at traditional firms fell an average of 1.2 percent in those years, according to Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based wealth management consulting firm.
To help structure their new business, including creating an equity structure to help them expand, the Strids have affiliated with Dynasty Financial Partners, a New York firm founded by former Smith Barney and Citigroup executives that designs technology and investment products for independent advisers.
Dynasty helps manage 20 independent wealth management firms with 63 advisers and about $20 billion in assets. It charges a small percentage of the non-cash assets managed by its advisory firms.
Concentus, Latin for "harmony," is using Charles Schwab Corp to hold client assets and execute transactions. The group will continue to buy research and tactical strategies from Dorsey Wright & Associates, a Richmond, Virginia-based "technical" money manager. It will retain web-based financial planning software from eMoney Advisor, and use Envestnet's reporting and portfolio balancing tools.
The Strids were part of a small unit at Wells called "Profit Formula" that allows brokers to keep about 75 percent of the revenue they collect from clients but charges them for the costs of running their practices. Most big brokerage firms pay top brokers about 45 percent of the commissions and fees collected from clients, but provide overhead and other services gratis.
Wells is not allowing new advisers into Profit Formula, said brokerage spokeswoman Rachelle Rowe, because it has separate "channels" to accommodate those who want to be completely independent and others who are full-time employees. Many of the most successful of Wells' more than 15,000 retail brokers are in Profit Formula and tend to move less often, she added.
The bank is likely restricting growth of Profit Formula to maintain better risk control, since advisers in the unit have more latitude to manage clients' money, or for reasons related to profit margin but the Strids did not feel pinched by any changes, Erik Strid said.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on the Strids or on the number of Profit Formula advisers. A headhunter and two Wells Fargo insiders estimated the unit has 350 teams with 1,000 advisers.
- Wells Fargo Advisors