ON THE MOVE-Morgan Stanley duo goes independent with Wells Fargo

By Ashley Lau

Oct 2 (Reuters) - After 15 years in the brokerage industry and two company mergers later, Maryland-based advisers Brian Luts and David Greenleigh decided it was time to take their book of business independent.

The two advisers, who started at the same Prudential Securities office in Washington, D.C. in 1997, moved to Wells Fargo & Co's independent broker-dealer on Tuesday. They were most recently advisers with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, where they managed $250 million in client assets and generated $1.5 million in annual revenue last year.

Luts and Greenleigh moved to Citigroup's Smith Barney in 2004 after their old firm, Prudential Securities, was bought by Wachovia. Only five years later, Smith Barney was rolled into Morgan Stanley's wealth management business.

"We started seeing the writing on the wall very similarly with when Wachovia bought Prudential," Luts said, referring to technology and cultural changes at his old firm following the merger.

Those changes were enough to prompt the adviser team to look for an alternative home for their clients' assets. They chose Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, or "FiNet," the company's broker-dealer division catering to independent advisers who also function as business owners.

"There's this whole world of other tasks that we as retail brokers never experienced or knew we had to do - things we always left up to the bigger firm," said Luts, noting that was part of their decision to join FiNet.

While not all client assets are guaranteed to move with a broker, the majority of a veteran adviser's book will.

Brokers with two or more decades of experience who decamp for a rival often bring up to 85 percent of client assets they manage with them -- up to 95 percent when they go independent, according to recruiters.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which also has a traditional employee broker-dealer and banking division, has the third-largest U.S. brokerage by client assets, after Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The brokerage business, based in St. Louis, has more than 15,000 advisers with $1.2 trillion in client assets among its brokerage subsidiaries. Roughly $55.5 billion of those assets came from its independent unit, which now has more than 1,100 owners and advisers in more than 540 practices.

(Reporting by Ashley Lau in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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Keywords: WELLS FARGO/