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50-year, $800M Wells Fargo team opens RIA

After more than a half century at Wells Fargo, advisor Christopher Sargent decided to make a change — and retirement wasn’t it. Together with his partners, Ricardo Rosenberg and Brian McGregor, Sargent launched an RIA, Sargent Investment Group, and moved over $800 million in client assets, according to their custodian, TD Ameritrade.

“The decision to move was not one that was taken lightly,” McGregor says.

Sargent and Rosenberg’s tenure at Wells Fargo spanned multiple management transitions.

“I think I went through five iterations,” says Sargent, who adds he’s worked at Wells and its prdecessor firms for 52 years. “I went through four,” Rosenberg says. According to FINRA BrokerCheck, he’d been a broker with the firm (and its predecessors) for almost 40 years. McGregor was at Wells Fargo for three years, according to FINRA BrokerCheck, with 12 years of experience in the industry.

Chris Sargent - Sargent Investment Group Jan 25, 2019

The reason they stayed so long? Inertia. But the wirehouse kept growing — and changing. “It’s been building each time we went through another merger or acquisition,” Sargent says.

A spokeswoman at Wells Fargo did not respond to a request for comment on the departure.

The team was also excited by the ability to integrate new technology as an independent practice.

“The world of the RIA has developed dramatically in the last 10 years in particular, and so have all the support services,” McGregor says. “There is cutting edge technology that being a smaller independent firm, we’re in a better position to utilize.”

When the team walked out of the Washington, D.C. Wells Fargo branch in early August, they had a disappointing surprise.

“Unfortunately the manger of our office, who has been a good friend and very supportive of all of us throughout our careers, was unexpectedly out of town,” McGregor says.

On the plus side, all five of their associates followed them, including two other advisors, an analyst and two client associates, according to the RIA.

The following 17 teams oversaw about $75 billion in assets. The firms ending the year with prize recruits include a diverse cast: regional BDs, wirehouses, boutiques and RIAs.
December 14

The transition to running their own firm wasn’t seamless. The plethora of paperwork, learning new technology and dealing with a difficult fourth quarter for the market were just some of the challenges they encountered.

At the same time, however, the advisors say now have better communication tools, a new website and office design and happier clients.

“We can be responsive to clients pretty much immediately,” Rosenberg says. “And that is the kind of thing we were looking for in having our own small business.”

The team is growing — it has brought on a new client associate and is in the process of hiring another advisor, according to the RIA. But there’s still some work to be done. “As I look around the conference room, there’s nothing on the walls yet,” McGregor says.

As for Sargent, the move has brought a new level of excitement.

“It’s been energizing,” he says. “I’ve been at it for 52 years, and I have no desire to stop … Every day is different, and that is really what keeps me going. I love it.”

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