Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network had its second most successful recruiting year in 2012, adding 152 advisors to its independent channel for a total of 1,167 advisors. What's driving the growth? FiNet President Kent Christian says there is increasing interest from wirehouse advisors.

WealthManagement.com: The Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network reported a record-setting year in recruiting during 2012. What factors do you think led to this success?

Kent Christian: 2012 was a great year for FiNet. Our pipeline of interest has never been more robust.  More and more advisors from the traditional “wirehouse” model are taking a look at independence. There’s a cachet to it now – and when they look at FiNet, they see three compelling attributes: strength and stability of the Wells Fargo brand, our robust platform of products and true independence. They have all the resources available that our employee advisors have – but they are true business owners making their own decisions.
 
WealthManagement.com: What type of advisor do you find is best suited for FiNet?

KC: The “typical” advisor coming to FiNet is one with 18 to 20 years of experience. They are looking to enhance the value of their business by applying a best practices approach. It’s typically not an advisor who is ready to “throw in the towel” on his or her career. Not every advisor is suited for independence, but the ones who are, are generally energized and ready to call their own shots, make more decisions on their own, and build a business they can call their own.

 
WealthManagement.com: Which platforms do you see FiNet recruits coming from? Are Wells Fargo Advisors wirehouse advisors taking advantage of the program too?
KC: Most of our recruits come to us from the other wirehouses. Advisors from regional firms make up the next largest group. As for within Wells Fargo Advisors, the great thing about having a multi channel business model is that if an advisor is thinking about independence, we have a system in place that allows them to talk to FiNet about that move.  Only a small number of advisors come to FiNet each year from the Private Client Group but we do our best to accommodate those who want to make the move to independence.

WealthManagement.com: Are these advisors joining FiNet as individuals or have you seen an increase in team activity? Do you expect to see these trends continuing?

KC: We have seen more teams join FiNet in the past year or so. These are advisors who have worked together at their previous firms, and want to continue that relationship as business owners. We’re also seeing an increase in advisors with higher AUM (assets under management) coming to us, and it’s a testament to power of the Wells Fargo brand, and what we’re doing in FiNet.
 
WealthManagement.com: The network has been around for almost a dozen years now, what is the average retention rate you’ve seen so far with advisors who make the move?

KC: Our retention rate for advisors continues to be quite strong.  That said, we take nothing for granted and are continuously focused on satisfying our business owners (advisors) by providing outstanding service and value.

WealthManagement.com: How does the firm’s Voluntary Growth Opportunity Award program work? How many of the 561 practices qualified for the award last year?

KC: The Voluntary Growth Opportunity Award (VGOA) program is in its second year, and is a big success with our advisors. Advisors are awarded additional cash bonuses they can reinvest in their businesses by participating in a variety of activities proven to both enhance client loyalty and earn new clients. That includes gathering new client assets, developing written investment plans and taking steps to secure the future of their practices through continuity and business valuation plans. Advisors have used the bonuses to hire new employees, invest in new office space or equipment, or put it aside for future use. Approximately 80 percent of our existing practices qualify for the VGOA program.