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Broker Report Card 2010. Wells Fargo Advisors: Ride Still Bumpy

Advisor satisfaction at Wells Fargo Advisors hasn't changed much from last year, and that's not good. Last year, advisors gave it a 5.5 rating out of 10, and this year they gave it a 5.7, putting it in second to last place among the six brokerages in the survey. Meanwhile, only 57 percent of the 173 advisors who responded to the survey said they believed their firm was the best to work for. (Of course, that's 173 advisors out of a total of around 15,000.) Further, 47 percent of Wells Fargo advisors were most likely to have considered going independent in the past year, more than any of the other firms surveyed. It might help that Wells Fargo has its own independent platform, FiNet.

Though the sample is small, the results should not come as a big surprise, given that the current Wells Fargo Advisors represents a cobbling together of several firms over the past few years. And that leaves plenty of room for integration issues and culture clash. Fifty-one percent of the Wells respondents for the report card are legacy A.G. Edwards advisors, while 41 percent are former Wachovia folks. One complaint so far: pressure to cross-sell Wells Fargo bank products. “This place isn't terrible, it just isn't good,” one broker wrote. “I thought Wells would usher in a big, bold new vision, and they just want us to shut up and loan our best clients money, most of whom hate banks and don't need or want to borrow.”

Keeping advisors happy isn't cheap: 62 percent of Wells advisors surveyed reported receiving a retention bonus from the company, by far the largest share among all six brokerages. Of those who got those bonuses, just 16 percent said they would consider changing firms if their bonuses were to expire in the next two years. Wells Fargo stepped up its recruiting efforts this fall; several recruiters and branch managers told Registered Rep. that the firm had bumped up its recruiting bonus to 295 percent of trailing 12 months production, from 195 percent previously, for $1 million producers. The deal ends Dec. 17.

Share price (23 Nov.): $26.80
Pre-tax income Q1-3: $1.31 billion
Net revenue Q1-3: $8.69 billion
Total Client AUM (9/30/10): $1.27 trillion
Net new client assets, Q3: N/A
Number of advisors, Q3: 15,088
Average annualized production per advisor: N/A
Average AUM per advisor, Q3: $84.1 million
*Financial data are from Wells Fargo & Co.'s Wealth, Brokerage and Retirement segment, which includes Wells Fargo Advisors.

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