Brokerage firm Edward Jones is known for its folksy image of advisors working from Main Street storefronts in small-town America. It’s also known for hiring career changers. But of late, the St. Louis-based company has been focusing part of its recruiting efforts on advisors at the big Wall Street wirehouse firms.

“Edward Jones has dabbled in the wirehouse recruiting space in the past, but in recent years we’ve realized there are a lot of unhappy wirehouse advisors looking for a different environment,” says Katherine Mauzy, a principal at Edward Jones who’s in charge of branch development and recruiting experienced financial advisors. “There’s been a lot of press about a lot of wirehouse advisors going independent, and I think our biggest opportunity is to have a conversation with those folks prior to them making a move, because typically what they find out is we’re this hybrid between a wirehouse and independence.”

Edward Jones’s hybrid persona stems in part from its position within the industry—it’s typically classified as a regional brokerage even though the firm’s roughly 13,000 advisors are located in big cities and small towns coast to coast.

Part of the company’s pitch is that it doesn’t own an investment bank or a private bank, and that its one profit center is the retail client, which puts the company’s headquarters and its single-advisor-staffed branch offices on the same page. It also promotes a sense of independence that lets advisors operate their own branch offices—with their own branch office administrators—while getting full support from the Edward Jones back office platform.
“The advantage of coming to Edward Jones is you have your own profit-and-loss statement,” Mauzy says. “Those who want to be entrepreneurial thrive in that type of environment.”

She says Edward Jones hired nearly 160 advisors from other firms last year. Most of those came from the wirehouses, but some were from regional firms. And it hired away 80 more advisors this year as of early September.

Edward Jones taps into a financial advisor database and Finra’s Web site, as well as local networks, to identify potential recruits. “We then spend time getting to know them and getting to understand their practice and their investment philosophy to see if they are a fit for Edward Jones,” Mauzy says.

Hiring experienced advisors can help bring down the attrition rate. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that 23% of Edward Jones’s new hires quit within four months. But the company’s regulatory filings show that the overall attrition is falling (it was 9.4% in 2013, down from 10.7% the previous year and 14.1% the year before that). Mauzy says the current rate is about 8.5%.

“We redesigned our selection process in 2011, making it more rigorous, and have focused overall in hiring seasoned professionals with a track record of success,” she says.

Carri Degenhardt-Burke, president of Degenhardt Consulting, a recruiting firm in Jersey City, N.J., that is focused on wirehouses and regional brokers, doesn’t believe Edward Jones is an attractive option for top wirehouse producers. “They’ll probably gain some momentum and attract some advisors, but I don’t think they’ll attract any of the upper 50% of the wirehouse advisors,” she says.

Mauzy counters that Edward Jones’s reputation as a place of below-average compensation is skewed by the large amount of new hires it brings in each year, and an apples-to-apples comparison of high-end producers shows that compensation is higher at Edward Jones because its advisors have their own P&L statements and can earn a branch profitability bonus above how much they earn in commissions and fees.

“You don’t take a step back in compensation to come to Edward Jones,” Mauzy says.