Why We Left Wells Fargo to Join Another Network
Source: FA-IQ, Mar. 22, 2018
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS, SPECIAL PROJECTS MANAGER, FINANCIAL ADVISOR IQ: Hello. I’m Rita Raagas De Ramos from Financial Advisor IQ, and with me today are Chris Cooke and Brian Cooke, who are partners and Senior Institutional Consultants at Cooke Financial Group, which is part of the NOYES Network. The Cooke Financial Group used to be with Wells Fargo, and now you’re part of the NOYES Network. Could you talk a little bit more about that transition?
CHRISTOPHER COOKE, PARTNER AND SENIOR INSTITUTIONAL CONSULTANT, COOKE FINANCIAL GROUP (NOYES): With Wells Fargo, we had come up from the beginning firms. There were many small firms that merged up into eventually Wachovia, which was purchased by Wells. And then we had A.G. Edwards merge in as well, and it became the Wells Fargo Advisors Network we know today. So many, many different firms and different merging.
In that environment, we were a W2 employee of the firm, and we had some flexibility. And we like the firm very much, and we continue to have a good relationship with the firm. But there are certain things in a large firm that they just can’t provide for every advisor in the firm.
Sometimes we call this the lowest common denominator rule, in that you make policy for maybe the average or even below-average person. And you can’t really allow a lot of exceptions for individuals. There were things we desired to provide for our client base that we didn’t think we could continue to do as employees. But as owners of an independent firm and as owners of the Cooke Financial Group and partners within the NOYES group, we have found that we have many, many more opportunities to serve clients in ways that the larger firm was having difficulty approving.
BRIAN COOKE, PARTNER AND SENIOR INSTITUTIONAL CONSULTANT, COOKE FINANCIAL GROUP (NOYES): I think I’d add that the key word to all of that is flexibility. Today, we have so much more flexibility than we did in the wire house world, at least in our opinion. We have things like our own investment banking division that sources various local deals that we could never participate on a big scale with a big firm like a Wells Fargo or a Merrill Lynch or what have you.
So having that flexibility is wonderful. We also have the ability to purchase a CPA firm and offer family office services. That’s impossible in the wirehouse world for us. So having an entrepreneurial spirit, flexibility, it’s really rejuvenated our business.
I mean, Chris and I have been in this industry for 26 years, and our heritage goes back to our father, back to 1969 for Cooke Financial Group. And it’s a whole new world for us in the last year and a half, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it.
We have the ability for even multiple custodial relationships. If one of our custodians doesn’t allow us to use a certain product on their platform, we can open a relationship with a different custodian. We have multiple relationships that way. And then we buy technology to aggregate performance data and statements together, and it works really well. We’re happy we did it.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: So do you also have a more open architecture investment strategy or investment profile for your clients?
CHRISTOPHER COOKE: I think the broad sphere of investing stocks, bonds, SMAs, mutual funds is the same by and large. But in the more esoteric areas of investing, when you think about we’re going to buy some real estate deals in our local community, those deals, in many cases, are very good investments for our clients. And we’ve found that some of our RIA or independent local competitors were doing those things for clients. And we had difficulty when we were part of the wirehouse, but now we’re doing those things.
So it’s in these esoteric areas, smaller areas. But in many cases, there’s big opportunities there.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I’m curious. So your father founded the firm in 1969. Do you still have a lot of the clients that he had? Have they stayed with the firm?
BRIAN COOKE: We’ve been really fortunate. We have a number of third generations and a few fourth generations that are part of the Cooke Financial Group. And it took us a few years to transition clients from John, our father, to Chris and I and to our team. I don’t think we really lost a client in that transition over those years, and it’s been wonderful. We’re very fortunate.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I was going to ask if you being part of the company helped sort of keep those third- and fourth-generation children in check, I guess -- or in-house, I guess.
BRIAN COOKE: We’d like to think so. I guess our struggle today is to work on the millennials, the up-and-coming generation. And so we’re trying to hire some folks that are really good with social media and can relate better with texting and Instagram and Facebook and all those different tools. Because that’s the next generation that will need to be served. So maybe we’ll get lucky and some of our kids will enter in the business and take Cooke Financial Group another 30 or 40 years into the future.
CHRISTOPHER COOKE: And that also ties back to that word "flexibility" and the independent channel. It’s probably easier to make decisions about social media and how you’re going to allow it to be utilized when there is a smaller firm and a smaller subset of advisors. And we might even differentiate and say certain advisors we’re going to say yes and other advisors we might say we’re not going to allow that. And the larger the firm gets, especially when you’re into the many, many thousands of advisors, the more those rules just become black and white and you can’t differentiate.
So flexibility and communication is important. And we think for the next generation of clients, these millennials in particular, the flexibility of how you communicate is becoming critical. They don’t necessarily want to communicate with us the ways that older generations have communicated. That’s a struggle for us to meet, but again, it’s whatever the client wants.
RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: Thank you.
CHRISTOPHER COOKE: Thank you for having us.
BRIAN COOKE: Rita, thanks for having us.