An advisor team managing $200 million in assets has left Wells Fargo to join Steward Partners, an independent firm founded by former wirehouse managers a year ago and affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services.
Advisors Jim Fowkes and Ben Plata joined Steward's Washington D.C. office, where the firm is based. In the past 13 months Steward Partners have recruited advisors managing $1.8 billion in assets.
Fowkes and Plata generated $1.6 million in revenue while at Wells Fargo. Fowkes says they made the move in part because they felt that the leadership at the wirehouse was too distant and that a smaller firm would be more responsive.
"As the large wirehouses centralize their operations, the amount of local influence a branch manager has to get things done, isn't as strong as it used to be. Years ago, he had the ability to help make those things happen right then and there," argues Fowkes.
He adds, "There's nothing better than having the CEO of your company a few doors down. You can go chat with him, and say 'I have a few thoughts,' and they can jump on it and get things done."
Fowkes says he and his partner first considered going to another wirehouse, but discounted the notion because they felt that they would encounter the same problems. They first heard about Steward by word-of-mouth from other wirehouse advisors. Going independent is often on the mind of advisors, says Fowkes. "Whether they make the move or not, they are thinking about it. I have many friends at wirehouses, and it's a regular conversation. Advisors are seeing what's going on in the industry."
Steward Partners has pulled talent from wirehouses before. A former Morgan Stanley team managing over $300 million in assets joined in the firm in July in New York. In May, two Morgan advisors managing $400 million joined Steward Partners in Washington. The firm also has offices in Andover, Mass., and Portsmouth, N.H. CEO Mike Maurer and President Jim Gold were former Morgan Stanley branch managers.
Fowkes is a two-decade veteran, having started his career at Citicorp Investment Services in 1992, according to FINRA records. In 2006 he moved to Wachovia, staying through its merger with Wells Fargo. Plata started his career in 2000 at Citicorp, partnering with Fowkes that same year.