Benjamin F. Edwards, the Clayton, Mo.-based brokerage started by the great-great grandson of A.G. Edwards’ founder, is going after independent, fee-only advisors, a shift for the 10-year-old firm that has primarily focused on commission-based, employee advisors. The firm has launched a custody-agnostic corporate registered investment advisor, Edwards Wealth Management.
The Dunlop Investment Group, a father-son team with $230 million in client assets, is the first to join the RIA, after spending the last eight years with Benjamin F. Edwards.
Any teams that join the corporate RIA will remain independent contractors, utilizing the firm for back- and middle-office services, said Chris Keller, managing director of Edwards Wealth Management. Pershing is the firm’s initial custodian, but its tech stack is custody-agnostic, and the firm is able to bring on advisors who custody elsewhere.
“We see this as purely an offensive strategy,” Keller said. “There’s a belief here that we can be successful in delivering to these independent business owners a lot of what we’ve been delivering to our employees for the last 10 years.”
But the firm’s legacy goes back more than one decade. It was founded in 2008 by Benjamin F. “Tad” Edwards IV, the great-great grandson of Albert Gallatin Edwards, who established the brokerage firm A.G. Edwards in 1887. That firm is now part of Wells Fargo Advisors.
Today, Benjamin F. Edwards has about 300 employee advisors managing just over $25 billion in client assets.
But Edwards Wealth Management does not operate within the broker/dealer. Independent advisors can use the b/d for brokerage business, as an accommodation if needed, Keller said. But the idea is to attract fee-only advisors with at least $1 million in annual revenue onto the RIA platform. The firm isn't looking to support advisors starting their own RIA.
Unlike some other RIA platforms out there, the firm is not requiring an equity stake in the businesses it brings on, although there are financing options in place in certain circumstances, said Keller. Advisors aren't required to take an equity stake in the corporate RIA either.
“If you are an employee of, say, another firm and you’re ready to start your own practice and you need startup capital, we’re prepared for that,” Keller said. “If you want to get some equity off the table, I think we’re prepared for that."