Wells Fargo breakaways join Focus firm

Two advisers who managed $400 million move to LVW Advisors

May 27, 2014 @ 10:59 am

By Mason Braswell

Focus Financial Partners has backed another breakaway deal, this time involving two former Wells Fargo & Co. advisers who managed about $400 million in client assets.

In Focus' 12th deal so far this year, advisers Joseph Zappia and Ted Garofola jumped ship to join existing Focus partner firm LVW Advisors in Pittsford, N.Y.

Focus helped facilitate the move with financing and transition assistance. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At Wells Fargo Advisors, Mr. Zappia and Mr. Garofola previously operated as the Zappia Investment Group along with another adviser, Todd Gunther. Mr. Gunther, who was an associate vice president of investments, is remaining at Wells Fargo.

“When you see one of those things happen in the industry, it's almost always the decision of the departing group,” said Rich Gill, a managing director at Focus who was involved in the deal.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman, Rachelle Rowe, confirmed that the two had left the firm, but declined to comment further.

Both Mr. Zappia and Mr. Garofola are legacy A.G. Edwards advisers who joined Wells Fargo through a series of mergers when Wachovia Corp., which bought A.G. Edwards in 2007, was acquired by Wells Fargo in 2008 during the financial crisis.

Mr. Zappia started his career in 1987, according to registration records with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. He managed approximately $350 million. Mr. Garofola, who began his career in 1993, managed around $42 million, according to a source familiar with the move.

An outside spokeswoman for Focus, Courtney Chennells, said that neither were not immediately available for comment.

LVW Advisors, which manages around $2 billion in assets, was founded with Focus' help in 2011 by Lori Van Dusen, who was formerly with Convergent Wealth Advisors. At the time she joined Focus, the firm said that Ms. Van Dusen managed around $4.9 billion in client assets.

She did not respond to a message left with the firm requesting comment.

Mr. Gill said that the difference was due to a shift since 2011 in what the Securities and Exchange Commission qualified as reportable assets. Ms. Van Dusen still advises on assets of around $4.95 billion, including assets such as a real-estate portfolio held outside the firm. But only $2 billion were directly under her firm's management and were therefore reportable under SEC qualifications, he said.

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