The Rise of the New National Firms

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There is a revolution occurring in the wealth management business.  Financial advisors are transitioning away from the large wirehouses, some of which are bank owned, to smaller, more nimble firms with national footprints.  Firms like Stifel.

As the wirehouse firms continue to swap assets with each other, Stifel has steadily gained net assets under management.  Here are three pillars that are helping Stifel win the net asset battle:

At Stifel, the advisor is the brand.  Remember when the advisor mattered?  At Stifel, the financial advisor is the quarterback of the relationship.  The advisor has a full team of experienced professionals behind him or her to help personally deliver all of a client’s financial needs.  Instead of forced cross-selling, we favor reasoned, relationship-based solutions.  Stifel embraces a flat, non-bureaucratic organization that adds time to an advisor’s day – enough supervision to help manage risk and compliance regulations with more time to spend with clients.

Stifel believes compensation has to be fair.  While Stifel recently changed compensation slightly, especially for the advisor producing under $250,000, our compensation plan remained unchanged for six consecutive annual production cycles.

At Stifel, the client comes first.  When the client is the firm’s main focus, everything falls into place from there.  The relationships our advisors have forged with their clients form the backbone of our culture and help guide decision-making at every level.  Our client-centric view applies to acquisitions, it applies to the investments we make in people and technology, and it applies to how the firm is structured.  It also is important to mention that Stifel’s client fees are among the lowest in the industry.

We will never relegate smaller clients to a call center – in fact, we don’t even have a call center.  It’s up to the advisor to manage his or her book in the way that makes the most sense to how they run their business.  We also pay our advisors on all clients!

Thanks to our acquisitions and internal growth, we offer a diverse range of products and services to address both sides of the balance sheet for mass affluent, high net worth, and ultra-high net worth clients.  The advisor always determines the product mix to recommend his or her clients.

Stifel is lean, efficient, and financially strong. Stifel has had 21 years of record net revenue and growth, even in down markets.  Stifel has also had 21 years with one dynamic, visionary, forward-thinking, and action-oriented CEO.

Stifel remains lean.  This allows us to be opportunistic, to adapt, to pivot, and to capitalize where appropriate.   That consistency and efficiency allows us to deliver large firm capabilities with the personal service of a boutique firm. Owning a bank versus being bank owned allows us to deliver services to meet client needs when the advisor deems it appropriate.

Stifel has created a balance between our Wealth Management and Institutional segments,  enabling us to provide advisors the products, research, and easily accessible expertise many smaller competitors don’t have, including investment banking, public finance, sales & trading, research, etc.  This balance provides access to hedge funds, corporate executive services, retirement plan services, and commercial and private lending – all in-house.

Stifel offers a return to the halcyon days.  Days when the advisor mattered.  When the client mattered.  The firm existed to serve both advisors and clients.  These are the reasons the net asset number is shifting away from what is considered traditional wirehouses.  The three pillars discussed here make up the entrepreneurial DNA of Stifel’s culture.  Culture matters.  Stifel never has had, nor will we ever have, the biggest check on the street.  We are, however, highly competitive.  When you combine our culture with a competitive transition compensation package, it is easy to see why Stifel is on the list of net AUM winners.

John Pierce Stifel Signature

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