A team of Naples, Fla.–based advisors with more than $4 billion in client assets has left Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, the wirehouse’s independent broker/dealer, to set up their own registered investment advisor.
Tom Moran, the firm’s CEO, CIO and chairman, founded Moran Wealth Management more than 30 years ago, and it now has 36 employees.
“Now we can say we're a 100% employee owned, 100% fiduciary firm,” Moran said. “Wells Fargo is a very good firm, but it's not a 100% fiduciary firm.”
Moran said the breakup was due to a desire to operate as a fee-only, fiduciary firm, and due to constraints Wells Fargo placed on the investment options and services he was able to offer his clients. “Certain strategies, like the ability to hedge your portfolio, is limited at Wells Fargo and any major firm,” he said. “If we wanted to offer tax planning or estate planning services, that’s something that is generally not done at a big wirehouse.”
Now that the firm has gone independent, growth is top of mind for Moran and his team—nearly half of whom are equity partners.
“We certainly want to expand,” he said. “We're looking at actively recruiting new financial advisors, and also CFPs, tax professionals, people with an estate planning background. So, we're definitely in acquisition mode—either individually or acquiring another firm, maybe a smaller firm that wants to take advantage of our infrastructure and expertise and our 30-year verified track record.”
Moran said that he believes many financial professionals would prefer to work for a fiduciary practice, and that those are the people he wants to talk to. “I believe that we’ll be one of the largest 100% fee-based practices in the state, if not the largest,” he said. “And I think potential new people who would join our firm would share that common philosophy of working as a fiduciary in a client’s best interest.”
He pointed out that the firm operates as a single, cohesive business, rather than a “siloed” operation, and that all Moran clients have access to any advisor who may have expertise that best suits their needs.
“A driving factor in our decision to become an independent RIA has been our team’s unrelenting commitment to act in the best interests of our clients,” said Moran President Donald Drury in a statement. “The extensive capabilities of our team are rooted in the expertise of its founding partners and its associates.”
The RIA will custody assets with BNY Mellon’s Pershing, which has spent the past several months helping with the transition.
“Becoming an independent RIA is a major milestone for an advisory firm that signifies long-term strategic vision and the capacity for growth,” said Sean Keenan, co-head of business development and wealth solutions at Pershing.
“I spent the last decade putting together the team and making sure I had the right infrastructure,” Moran said. “But to move $4 billion of client relationships and multi-generational estates, pension and corporate accounts, charitable institutions—that was a big step.”
“That’s why we did it over several months,” he added. “So we could make sure our clients were not inconvenienced—and they were very supportive, but we wanted to make sure it was a very smooth transition. It was a lot of effort behind the scenes on our part.”
Moran said he retained close to 100% of its client roster. On top of that, Moran said, “a number” of prospective clients have simply been waiting for the move to be finalized.