Florida Fliers: Wells Nabs Merrill Producer, LPL Hires Ladenburg Exiles
Wells Fargo & Co.’s amped-up recruiting efforts landed it a Merrill producer with $1.2 million in Florida’s panhandle last week, while two veteran independent brokers in southwest Florida changed their affiliation to LPL Financial this week.
A Wells spokeswoman confirmed that Osama Albibi, whose 14-year career had been spent at Merrill and Morgan Stanley, joined its employee channel in a Panama City office. He worked with about $120 million of client assets at Merrill, she said.
Merrill stopped recruiting experienced brokers more than three years ago, and no longer breaks out its wealth management salesforce numbers from those of reps working in other parts of Bank of America, its parent company. A Merrill executive last week asserted that attrition of brokers stands at a “historically low’’ annualized rate of 2.4% based on year-to-date departures.
Some Merrill managers in recent months have been authorized to offer enhanced discounts and fee rebates to clients of brokers who are leaving.
Albibi did not return a request for comment at his Wells Fargo office near the resort town of Panama City Beach.
Wells has been offering generous signing bonuses for over a year in an effort to fill seats of advisors who left in the wake of its parent company’s widely publicized account scandals. The average advisor hired in the second quarter was generating $855,000 in annual revenue, above the mean of $719,000 produced by new advisors who joined in 2019 and average production of $565,000 in 2018.
The after-effects of the scandal, however, continue to haunt the firm. Wells Fargo Advisors lost a net 501 brokers in the past 12 months, according to its second-quarter earnings report, and its force of 13,298 advisors across its employee and FiNet independent channels is down by 12% since the scandal broke in September 2016.
A Wells Fargo Advisors spokeswoman said earlier this month that headcount is likely to continue to decline because of deliberate attempts to ease out less productive brokers and elevated levels of retirements.
The new independent brokers who joined LPL this week in Fort Myers, Fla. are Ed Bell III and Gretchen Collins. They had been managing $160 million in client assets at Securities Service Network in Fort Myers, Florida, which Bell had affiliated with for his entire 18-year career.
SSN was part of Ladenburg Thalmann, the Miami firm that operated five independent brokerage firms prior to selling them to private-equity controlled Advisor Group earlier this year. The new owner this month dissolved three of the brand names, folding SSN, Investacorp and KMS Financial Services into Advisor Group’s largest broker-dealer, Securities America.
Bell and Collins, who rejoined SSN in 2017 after more than a decade with Wells’ FiNet, felt it was “ important to move to a fully-established, publicly traded firm to avoid disruption to their business in the event of a change of ownership,” LPL said Thursday in announcing their arrival.
Bell did not return a call for comment, but said in a prepared statement that the advisors expect to enjoy “improvements in platform costs, cash management, and expanded mutual fund and stock research capabilities.”
LPL, the largest independent firm with 16,800 brokers, in April recruited Securities America’s largest office of supervisory jurisdiction, JFC Financial Services, which had $1.3 billion in assets.
Advisor Group has around 11,500 advisors overseeing $450 billion in client assets. A spokesman did not return a request for comment on the Florida departures.