$4.5B Team Leaves Wells to “Up Game” as Fiduciaries
Advisor Gerald Goldberg announced earlier this week he’s left the independent network at Wells Fargo Advisors, FiNet, to launch GYL Financial Synergies. Joining him as partners at the West Hartford, Conn.-based firm are three other ex-Wells Fargo FAs. The team oversees about $4.5 billion in assets. It has brought in Focus Financial Partners as a consultant and strategic investor. It also has hired Fidelity as its primary custodian.
Q: You’ve actually been inching towards complete independence for years now, haven’t you?
A: Yes, we spent more than 15 years working together at Wells Fargo and its predecessor firms. In 2014 I formed with my cofounder, Jonathan Yolles – along with our partners Michael Lepore and Claire McDonald – an independent practice through Wells Fargo’s FiNet network.
Q: Why did you see a need to move again?
A: We had a very good working relationship with Wells Fargo but this evolution in our practice didn’t happen yesterday. We started as young advisors at Prudential Securities, which was merged into Wachovia Securities. Then a few years later we became part of Wells Fargo. So even though we hadn’t moved, the name on our front door kept changing. One of the reasons why we wanted to go fully independent and move away from Wells Fargo was to gain full control over our own brand.
Q: What else went into your decision?
A: We wanted to be able to reinvest in our human capital, software and analytics with more autonomy. We’re just finding that the universe of third-party technologies, investment analytics and investment options are much broader by going completely independent.
Q: Can you be more specific?
A: This is a dynamic and fast-growing independent market place. Being able to leverage leading third-party services – as well as the thought-leadership and consulting support that Focus Financial brings to the table – gives us an even greater opportunity to step up our game as fiduciaries. For example, we’re using eMoney as our primary financial planning tool to work with individuals and families. We’ve also chosen Envestnet for performance reporting with our retail clients, which replaces a proprietary performance system we used at Wells Fargo. By gaining access to these types of independent technologies and services, we’re now able to customize our financial planning process in a more tailored fashion around each individual client’s unique set of circumstances.
Q: On the investment side, what changes are you making?
A: The range of separate account managers and investment strategies that are available through Envestnet’s platform is greater than what we’ve had access to in the past. We also have more opportunities now to offer our clients a wider universe of alternative investments. These include a broader universe of hedge fund managers and private equity opportunities to consider as part of our planning process.
Q: How is your new firm dealing with assets under custody?
A: The custody service provided by Wells Fargo was fine, but as an independent we now have the freedom to work with clients who custody elsewhere. So while we’ve made a determination that Fidelity would be a very good fit for many of our families and institutions, ultimately we’re leaving that choice up to them. By being able to take an agnostic view about where they custody their assets, we feel that’s another way we can help to up our game as fiduciaries.
Q: What other growth drivers do you plan to tap into?
A: One of the most attractive features of going completely independent is that we’ve been able to bring Focus Financial into our business to help fuel and support our growth. With their financial and consulting support we’re now going to be able to get involved in mergers and acquisitions. We’re already starting to prepare for a significant ramping up in finding talented advisors who will be able to fit into our culture. Over the next several years our plan is to build infrastructure and attract wealth management professionals who can provide our firm with greater synergies in terms of bolstering our service and support – both to existing clients and future prospects.