ON THE MOVE-Wells adds brokers from Merrill, Morgan Stanley, UBS

Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:17pm GMT

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Nov 14 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co said on Wednesday that it added four adviser practices, with a total of more than $1.1 billion in client assets, to the company's independent brokerage division, scoring at least seven veteran brokers from rival firms.

The new recruits, who joined Wells earlier in November, came from Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and UBS Wealth Management Americas. The advisers joined Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or "FiNet," which caters to independent advisers who also function as business owners.

"We wanted to run our own business," said California-based adviser Michael Kazmer, who decided to go independent after roughly three decades in the advising industry.

Kazmer, who managed $620 million in client assets with fellow advisers Larry Bernstein and Abby Dinkins, moved with his team from Bank of America's Merrill Lynch.

"We looked at the depth and the reputation and the market cap of Wells Fargo, and it gave us a sense of comfort," Kazmer said in an interview about his decision to go independent with Wells.

The advisers formed the KBT Group and are based in Westlake Village, a wealthy community in the greater Los Angeles area.

MORE MOVES INTO WELLS

Also on the move, advisers Bryan Pieper and Gregory Stringari joined Wells' FiNet from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, the brokerage majority owned by Morgan Stanley and partially owned by Citigroup.

The advisers, based in Colorado, managed $270 million in client assets. They joined Wells' office in Louisville - located just outside of Boulder - and formed the Trailhead Wealth Management group.

In Connecticut, adviser Michelle Lavigne moved to Wells from UBS Wealth Management Americas, the brokerage owned by the Swiss bank UBS AG .

Lavigne, who had been at UBS for more than a decade, managed $128 million in client assets at the firm. She joined the existing FiNet practice Adaptive Wealth Management.

Wells also said it added Vermont-based adviser Bruce Scott Wilson to its FiNet division, as previously reported by Reuters. Wilson managed $110 million in client assets at his old firm, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment on the departures. Bank of America and UBS did not immediately return a request for comment.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co, which also has a traditional employee broker-dealer and banking division, has the third-largest U.S. brokerage by client assets, after Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Merrill Lynch. UBS's brokerage business ranks fourth. The four firms often compete for similar teams of veteran advisers.

Wells' brokerage business, based in St. Louis, has more than 15,000 advisers with about $1.2 trillion in client assets among its brokerage subsidiaries. Roughly $55.5 billion of those assets came from its independent unit, which now has more than 1,100 owners and advisers in more than 540 practices.

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