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$1.7B Wells Fargo Team Leaves to Better Tap Local Investment Opportunities

By Murray Coleman December 6, 2016

After 24 years at Wells Fargo Advisors, Indianapolis-based advisor Chris Cooke is moving to independent wealth management firm David A. Noyes & Co. Joining him is his brother, Brian Cooke. Both were named to the FT 400 list of elite U.S. advisors in 2016. Together, their 11-member team managed $1.7 billion at the wirehouse. The deal to become partners at the Chicago-based Noyes was announced in late November.

Q: Why did you decide to leave the wirehouse?

A: As a team we felt a need for more independence and objectivity. We also had a desire to source local products, including venture capital and real estate.

Q: How so?

A: The wirehouse offers many wonderful features. But some of our clients in the past have expressed interest in purchasing commercial real estate in the Indianapolis area. If Wells Fargo hadn’t reviewed those particular projects, then we at Wells Fargo Advisors couldn’t move forward. That was true with venture capital deals taking place in our community, too. Projects we felt could’ve been appropriate for some families – and offered opportunities to provide additional sources of income to their portfolios – were at times considered too small for the bank’s broader purposes.

Q: Do you see the move expanding your service menu?

A: Yes, we're finding more freedom in operating independently to serve our clients in a greater variety of ways. For example, when clients have asked us in the past to serve as a trustee for a life insurance trust or as an estate’s executor, we knew it was highly unlikely we’d be allowed to grant those requests. Now we'll have more flexibility to handle those types of responsibilities.

Q: Are there any additional areas of opportunity?

A: Another service area where we're looking to expand our support is with families who ask us for additional sets of services. These are usually clients with $10 million or more of investible assets. They tend to request help in everything from running several different households at a time to assuming greater responsibilities in handling estate planning issues. I was trained as a tax attorney and I’m also a CPA. One of the other advisors on our team is also trained as a tax attorney. So we have highly specialized skills and services to offer. In the wirehouse channel, we just weren’t able to fully utilize all of our combined experience and education.

Chris Cooke

Q: How will this move impact your own compensation outlook?

A: We were employees at Wells Fargo Advisors. Now we’re managing our own profit and loss statements through an independent Cooke Financial Group, which is its own RIA. We’re also affiliating with Noyes as our broker-dealer and taken a significant ownership stake in that company. So this gives us greater possibilities to share in the financial success of both independent businesses.

Q: Will you be passing along any increased profits to your clients?

A: We’re expecting any incremental revenue we might generate will go to additional operating costs as part of doing business as a stand-alone firm. We expect that the net impact of this move from a strictly financial standpoint will be relatively neutral compared to working at the wirehouse.

Q: So what benefits do you see for clients coming with you to the new firm?

A: Besides more access to a broader range of products and investments, we also believe that our advisors acting as independent fiduciaries will have much more ability to tailor services to each client’s unique needs. If we do even more right things for people, we think the value proposition grows for those families we serve. Already, more than 90% of our assets under management have moved with us. And that’s just after two weeks.

Q: Do you see being an independent as opening new avenues for growth?

A: Yes, we’re brainstorming ideas right now. Noyes has its own investment banking group, which down the road could lead to opportunities for our company to expand into a wider range of financial services. For example, many of our clients have asked us to work directly on their individual tax situations. As an independent business, we now have the freedom in the future to invest in a local CPA business. Although we see this type of expansion as coming well down the road, we see these opportunities as relatively endless. That just wasn’t the case operating in a wirehouse environment.