Top 100 Bank Advisors: Who’s in and how they got there

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There’s no one way to make it to the BIC Top 100. The bank advisors who made the cut this year took different paths and used diverse strategies.

Some embraced technology to the hilt. Others insist that tech takes a back seat in this face-to-face business. In fact, our No. 1 advisor this year said he’s probably the least social media savvy advisor in the country.

One doesn’t believe in account minimums; one sets a soft minimum of $5 million. A few said they shun the idea of tier-level servicing and treat all customers the same. Many talk of roadmaps (one even calls himself a cartographer), while others emphasize essentially becoming a friend to their clients, instead of just being their advisor.

They also took different career paths to get to the top of the bank channel. One wealth manager was previously an engineer; another managed an assisted-living facility; one was an advisor to officials in the U.S. intelligence community. They all attribute their current success to skills learned on those previous jobs. Others are lifelong advisors, often having started their career working alongside a parent.

But you know all that. We’ve done this list long enough to know that most readers go straight for the slideshows before they read the intro. So most of you have already seen the pictures and read the bios. And now you’re wondering how the advisors were ranked.

The advisors listed here are not just home-run hitters. They are the all-around players skilled in every aspect of their game, which is the way to make any team great.

To make the list, a combination of six factors were considered. Typical measures of size were used, such as AUM and production. But other metrics were also used, such as percentage changes in both AUM and production, as well as the amount of fee business from the most recent production figures and, finally, the ratio of production per AUM. Those variables were combined into one composite score to determine the final ranking. (We used AUM as of the end of August, and production of the 12-month period ending Aug. 31. We also rounded numbers for display in the slideshow, but all of our calculations used the full numbers submitted, before rounding.)

Some of the top advisors embrace technology to the hilt. Others insist that tech takes a back seat in this face-to-face business.

We use multiple metrics to get a more well-rounded view of advisors in the bank channel. The advisors listed here are not just home-run hitters. They are the all-around players skilled in every aspect of their game. This is the way to make any team great.

We've tinkered a bit with the metrics and their weightings over the years. Most notably, the importance of fee business has been increased from the tack-on element it was in past years to one of the more important considerations. In fact, fee business was one of our top-tier weightings in this year’s list. (Number of years on the job was not used in determining the ranking.)

Full Top 100 coverage:
Top 100 bank advisors: Who’s in and how they got there
Top 100 bank advisors (1-25)
Top 100 bank advisors (26-50)
Top 100 bank advisors (51-76)
Top 100 bank advisors (76-100)
A chance encounters changed this advisor’s career

As we've done in the past, we'll address a few potential concerns that may be percolating in some people's minds.

First, this list is subjective in the formulas and weightings that were used.

We agree, it is. But we use standard measures like AUM, production, fee business and growth. Overall, our list is a well-rounded analysis. In fact, since we even tinker with the weightings from year to year, we feel the subjective nature is a positive, because we can change with an evolving industry.

Another potential objection: An advisor could have $1 billion in AUM and still be marginalized. Here, we disagree. The categories where size counts (AUM and production) were major parts of the ranking. In fact, we increased AUM’s importance from last year. And production had a double impact since it's also part of our ratio of production-to-AUM. Admittedly, a high AUM could work against an advisor with this ratio if their production didn't keep pace. But that's the idea behind that ratio, to gauge the profitability of an advisor as a business person.

Finally, some critics will tell us that this list does not capture the full value of an advisor. Again, we agree. The full value of any advisor rests on the quality of their client relationships. As this list is quantitative, it cannot convey those types of qualitative measures. (The bios submitted were not used as part of the ranking.) But statistics also count, so this is our annual reckoning of the top advisors in the bank channel based on the numbers.

This year, Raymond James, LPL and Citibank are the three dominant firms. In fact, Raymond James had the top advisor this year, who we profiled to get more details on his approach. Other firms that had healthy showings included Citizens Bank, PNC Bank, CUSO, CUNA and BOK.

Stay tuned over the next few months as we re-cut the data for auxiliary rankings to highlight the advisors by our various criteria. Until then, enjoy the Top 100.

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Client communications Raymond James Financial LPL Financial Citigroup SunTrust CUNA CUSO Financial Services Citizens Bank Infinex Financial Group InDepth