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'Buried' by bureaucracy, Wells Fargo advisor jumps to Steward Partners

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Steward Partners picked up three Wells Fargo advisors who oversaw more than $230 million in client assets, the firm said.

They mark the latest hires for the independent firm, which is affiliated with Raymond James and has been an aggressive recruiter, luring a number of new hires from the wirehouses recenlty.

For advisor Sarah Marks, making the move to Steward Partners was about finding a corporate culture that would better foster her team's growth.

"We were getting buried in the bureaucracy of being in a big bank," she says.

Marks, 38, joined Steward Partners' Washington, D.C. headquarters. Two other advisors ― Andrew Egber and Miguel Lopez ― joined the firm in Bethesda, Maryland.

They're not alone in making the move from wirehouse behemoth to a smaller wealth manager. Independent and regional firms have been aggressive recruiters while three of the four wirehouses have cut back hiring efforts (Morgan Stanley and UBS also left the Broker Protocol late last year). In 2016, advisors managing more than $70 billion in client assets joined RIAs, IBDs or regional brokerages. By contrast, brokers overseeing more than $17 billion joined wirehouses, according to hiring announcements.

Steward Partners has been among the beneficiaries of the migration of wirehouse talent to the independent channel. Since its founding in 2013 by former Morgan Stanley managers, Steward Partners has picked up more than 80 advisors managing over $8.3 billion, according to the firm. Last year, Steward Partners also opened new branch offices in Boston, Baltimore, Clearwater, Florida and Paramus, New Jersey.

Executives expect similar growth this year and have plans to open new locations, including one in Texas, where the firm added Chris Barton as divisional president. Barton was previously a Morgan Stanley complex manager in Dallas.

"It's been a big focus to fill locations we have. That being said, we are focused on maybe four to five new markets," says Jeff Gonyo, divisional president in Washington and Maryland.

Gonyo added that the firm is looking to expand in Virginia.

"That's an important aspect of why I came here," Marks says. "I want to be part of building something new."

Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, UBS and Morgan Stanley all lost talent in 2017.
January 3

Many of Steward Partners hires have cited reasons similar to those of Marks, who also emphasized the appeal of the firm's partnership culture, technology platform and affiliation with Raymond James among other factors.

Marks, an advisor since she was 23 years old, says she discounted the idea of going independent on her own.

"Me going and sitting by myself in an office ― I was doing that already at Wells. I wanted to be part of something bigger, and that is what [Steward] felt like," she says.

Marks made her move with partners Vera Reich, private banker, and Merit Kralovec, senior registered client administrative manager. Marks had been with Wells Fargo since 2007.

Egber and Lopez had worked at the wirehouse since 2008 and 1994, respectively.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman was unavailable for immediate comment.

Marks added that she's been impressed with the technology and marketing tools available to her at her new firm.

"The way we communicate with clients is changing quickly. And the technology here at Raymond James and Steward Partners is heads-and-tails above what we had at Wells Fargo," she says.

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