In the film The Shining, a ghostly bartender tells Jack “your money’s no good here,” while other ghosts are planning to do away with Jack and his family. In December it was Wells Fargo doing the “ghosting.” By urging its brokers to get rid of clients with a minimum balance of less than 65,000, Wells Fargo Advisors sent a clear message to younger investors that, going forward, their money is “no good” at Wells Fargo.
In a company statement quoted by Janet Levaux in Think Advisor, Wells Fargo, which is the most valuable financial institution in the world according to the WSJ,* said that, in 2016, “bonuses will be awarded to FAs with 75% of their client households at $250,000.”
Wells Fargo isn’t the only large institution effectively ignoring Millennials and other smaller and entry-level clients. Most of the corporate institutions prefer high-net worth clients because it creates “efficiencies of scale” and a higher profit margin on larger trades.
As frustrating as the requirement for a high minimum balance is for first time investors, it has also inspired a new breed of smaller independent RIAs, like Sherman Wealth Management (“SWM”), as well as the the new “robo-advisor” firms.
Younger, breakaway firms like SWM aren’t looking for “efficiencies” or working for sales commissions on the products we recommend. Our focus is different. We strive to help investors build a strong foundation then grow with them, not by profiting off the trades, good or bad, we recommend for them.
Where large brokerages currently see a “revenue problem,” we see a growth potential and are building long-term lasting relationships. By the time Wells Fargo and the other firms with traditional models get around to investing their time and attention in younger investors, it may just be too late. Those Millennial clients will be growing their wealth with firms that didn’t “ghost” them and, like Jack – spoiler alert! – may end up being “frozen out” of the largest wealth transfer in the history of the world as capital shifts from Boomers to Millennials.