Going independent has apparently worked wonders for a legacy Smith Barney brokerage team that recently formed Artiea Capital Management.

Joel E. Chitiea, Paul E. Artof and Jason R. Artof, who garnered a combined $1.6 million in commissions, left Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in May, according to FINRA BrokerCheck profiles.

Chitiea declined to say how much in clients’ assets the firm managed, but he said that the group’s net earnings have surpassed what it grossed when it was at MSSB. Part of that success stems from the fact that the firm transferred about 80% of its existing book of business. Further, some clients began giving the independent firm more household investable assets to manage.

“These were assets that we didn’t even know existed,” Chitiea said in a telephone interview. “It happened with so many people.”

He still hasn’t gotten to the bottom of why -- probably because working weekends and 12-hour days to launch the practice left little time to investigate it. The practice’s history, though, offers a clue. The group began using exchange-traded funds in 2002, and those funds now account for about 40% of its overall portfolio.

“We’ve had so many people call and congratulate us that we made the move,” he said. Chitiea added that he doubts clients would have had the same reaction had he transferred the practice to another wirehouse business model.  

The group, based in Westlake Village, Calif., will use the Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network as its broker dealer.

The move pushes Wells Fargo Advisors FiNet’s headcount past 1,000, according to industry professionals familiar with the matter. Wells Fargo officials, however, were not immediately available to confirm that figure.

The group had worked together at Smith Barney since May 2005, when Jason Artof, Paul’s son, joined the firm. Chitiea, however, has the longest track record in the group. He joined Citigroup Global Markets in May 1980. Paul Artof started at Lehman Brothers in April 1982, giving him 29 years in the business.

Chitiea said the firm plans to eventually add more advisors, but did not offer specifics.