(Dow Jones) Even the largest and most traditional brokerage firms are considering the merits of independence.
Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, the independent brokerage unit of Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), President John Peluso said Friday it may begin recruiting registered investment advisors to plug into independent channel.
"We think we could be relevant to RIAs that are underleveraged, undervalued and underappreciated," Peluso said in an interview.
Recruiting RIAs to join independent broker-dealers could be a reversal from the events of the past few years, as advisors left large brokerage firms, or wirehouses, to open their own registered investment advisory firms.
Peluso said many of these advisors didn't anticipate the increasing complexities and costs of compliance, technology and running their own businesses and may want to plug into a place where they can get added support while maintaining their independence.
"While they might not want to go back to being an employee, a supervised independent model could appeal to them," Peluso said.
Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, the renamed Wachovia Securities Financial Network, serves as an independent broker-dealer: Advisers operate as independent contractors, rather than employees, but can leverage the Wells Fargo name and support systems. In turn, Wells Fargo takes a 15% cut off top-line profits.
The independent channel makes up only a small part of Wells Fargo's Wealth, Brokerage & Retirement group, which comprises $1.1 trillion in total client assets and more than 15,000 advisors. However, Peluso said it is the fastest-growing segment of the group by a combination of revenue, assets and advisors.
One reason, he said, is that Wells Fargo offers independent advisers financial help with starting their own businesses. A similar concept to the wirehouse signing bonus, FiNet offers an upfront loan as a non-equity investment in their new business based on 10% to 75% of "trailing 12" production, or the revenue brokers generate through fees and commissions during the previous 12 months.
"It makes us more competitive than other independent broker-dealers that don't offer anything upfront," Peluso said.