Wirehouse Advisor Movement Trends - 2021

2021 saw significant registered rep movement in the wirehouse space. While the wirehouse channel as a whole lost advisors, some wirehouses did experience growth.

Continued wirehouse movement in 2021 shows the competition for recruiting financial advisors to be hyper competitive as firms jockey to acquire talent and assets. We took a look at the data to better understand movement within and from the wirehouse channel in 2021. All of our presented data was sourced from the SEC and FINRA.  

Key Takeaways

  1. Wirehouse advisor headcount departures double additions in 2021, resulting in a net loss of 3,555
  2. UBS both lost and gained the lowest advisor headcount to non-wirehouse channels
  3. Morgan Stanley took nearly 800 advisors from wirehouse competitors
  4. Wells Fargo and Merril Lynch are losing headcount to wirehouse peers

Wirehouses experience a net loss of registered representatives in 2021

During 2021, the wirehouse channel saw 7,164 advisors move to non-wirehouse firms – including both RIAs and Broker-Dealers. In the same period, wirehouses saw 3,609 practicing advisors move to a wirehouse from another channel. While there was some growth in headcount from outside the channel, wirehouses still experienced a net loss of 3,555 practicing registered representatives. This seems to be evidence that financial advisors currently see more opportunity outside of the channel and that wirehouses are focusing on a core group of advisors to drive growth while trimming the total headcount.

UBS and Morgan Stanley lose the fewest advisors to non-wirehouse firms in 2021

Each of the four wirehouses experienced different trends in 2021. The data shows that UBS lost the fewest advisors to non-wirehouses while Wells Fargo experienced the most departures to non-wirehouses in 2021. The fact that UBS both lost and gained the fewest advisors to other channels shows a strategy of consolidation and focus on a core set of producing advisors. Wells Fargo lost a headcount of 2,921 registered representatives and UBS lost only 547 advisors. Conversely, Morgan Stanley added the most non-wirehouse advisors to their headcount at 1,059 showing heavy recruitment from outside the channel.

Wells Fargo and Merril Lynch are losing headcount to their wirehouse peers

2021 saw significant advisors movement between the four wirehouses. It’s clear that the channel’s advisors are moving where they see the most opportunity. As evidence of the competition between wirehouses for talent and assets, 1,544 wirehouse advisors moved to a competing wirehouse in 2021. Benefiting from this trend, Morgan Stanley experienced the highest increase in headcount form a competing wirehouse by a large margin – over 3x the next closest, UBS. Conversely, Merril Lynch experienced the highest rate of departures at 546 registered representatives, and Wells Fargo the second highest at 514.

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