These are the Critical Issues Keeping Top Broker-Dealers Up at Night

Posted by Rita Raagas De Ramos February 14, 2019 at

Broker-dealer firms are facing numerous challenges when it comes to growing their businesses, and among the most pressing is retaining talent.

For Christopher Cooke, Indianapolis-based partner and senior institutional consultant at Cooke Financial Group, the biggest challenge is making sure his team is “functioning as efficiently and as effectively as possible to serve our clients.”

For Louis Cannataro, New York-based founder and partner of Cannataro Park Avenue, the biggest concern he has when strategizing the growth of his business is the “cost of human capital.”

Cooke and Cannataro are among the 2018 Financial Times Top 400 Broker-Dealer Advisors. To qualify for the Financial Times Top 400 Broker-Dealer Advisors list, advisors need a minimum of 10 years of experience and at least $300 million in client assets. Qualified advisors are then scored on six attributes: AUM, AUM growth rate, compliance record, experience, industry certifications and online accessibility.

Cooke says having advisors who function efficiently — and holding on to them — is crucial to the growth of his practice.

Cooke Financial had around $2 billion in assets from around 720 clients as of 2018, and around 97% of the assets are charged on a fee-based basis “so when markets grow, assets grow.”

But “many” of the firm’s clients are “a little bit older, so many are taking distributions,” according to Cooke.

“Within our $2 billion [client asset] base, we probably have to replace between $25 to $50 million a year just to break even on current assets under management,” he adds.

Cooke Financial has thus far attracted new clients “one hundred percent” from client referrals, according to Cooke, who recognizes that the firm shouldn’t depend solely on those client referrals.

“We think we can be so much better on marketing,” he says. “We don’t do any substantial form of marketing and we think that’s a big opportunity for the future.”

Cooke is counting on new developments within its group structure to help boost marketing efforts. Cooke Financial is part of the financial advisory group David A. Noyes & Co., which launched the hybrid RIA and broker-dealer network Sanctuary Wealth Partners in May of last year. Cooke Financial is now also a part of Sanctuary.

Meanwhile, Cooke says fee pressures are among the common grumblings in the financial advisory industry but agrees such pressures can be managed.

“The nature of a great competitive environment is there will always be a pressure to be competitive on fees and deliver greater service. We are delivering a good balance of those two, and I do not feel undue pressure at this time,” Cooke says.

Cooke says that while his firm has never been the lowest on the industry fee scale, “we’ve never been a high-fee group either,” he says.

“I don’t want to be a deep discount retailer like Dollar Tree. I want to deliver Ritz Carlton service levels but at a very median price,” Cooke says.

For Cannataro, the key to building his practice is keeping manpower costs manageable. Cannataro Park Avenue’s strategy is to build advisors from scratch – hire them and then have them undergo a four-year advisor training track. The training involves spending time in the firm’s financial planning, insurance and investment divisions. This helps manage costs while ensuring advisors are well-entrenched within the company’s culture, according to Cannataro.

“As our practice grows, we need to keep providing good advice and service to our growing number of clients, so we simply need more people,” Cannataro says.

The firm prefers homegrown advisor talent “because then they’re steeped in the culture of how we approach the planning,” Cannataro says. “No matter which advisor you speak with,” you’re going to hear the same thing.

Cannataro notes that questions about fees have increased mainly because there’s been a greater awareness of them among clients. Around 70% of the firm’s client assets are charged on a fee basis, he says.

“Clients now will call asking about fees because everybody is paying attention to it,” Cannataro says. “I simply lift the hood for them. We here have been paying attention to fees before it became fashionable.”

Cannataro says as long as advisors can explain and justify their fees to clients, it shouldn’t be a concern.

“When our clients would call [to ask about fees], first we would look and see what we were charging and then we look at what we’re delivering. And I’m not just talking about returns, it’s not just asset allocation, what the robots can do now. It’s all of the aspects of the planning – the defense and the offense,” he says.

Cannataro believes the real competition in the broker industry is delivering investment returns.

“The competition typically comes in on the investment side. Some will say ‘we’re gonna get you better returns, we’re gonna be more tax efficient, we have some super-duper philosophy that’s going to outsmart the market,’” he says.

Firms with a solid and repeatable investment strategy for their clients shouldn’t be afraid of “that kind of competition,” Cannataro says. “That’s all smoke and mirrors anyway. If somebody says they can figure out the market completely, then they would be running the market.”

The latest available data from self-regulator FINRA shows that the total income of registered broker-dealer firms has been on the rise even if the number of firms and registered reps have been on the decline.

The combined pre-tax net income of 3,726 registered broker-dealer firms reached $38.2 billion in 2017, up 48% from $25.7 billion reported by 4,146 registered firms in 2013.

The total number of registered reps in 2017 was 630,132 – fairly flat compared with 630,796 in 2013. But a deeper dive into the data shows that the number of registered reps has generally been declining – peaking at 672,688 in 2007 and at its lowest at 629,518 in 2011.

2018 Gr8 Paper Push at Cooke Financial Group

Cooke Financial Group found this cause through WISH-TV and we decided to make it into a team building event for an amazing cause.

Gr8 Paper Push raises thousands in cash and supplies for Indiana teachers

The drive benefits Teachers’ Treasures, a non-profit store in Indianapolis just for teachers.

On average, teachers spend between $500 and $1,000 of their own money on school supplies for their students each year. Teachers’ Treasures lets educators get the supplies their students need at no cost to them.

Learn more about this organization on their website:

Cooke Financial Group participates in charitable causes frequently. See some of the other ways The Cooke Financial Group has participated in the past.

Originally posted on:

Why We Left Wells Fargo to Join Another Network: Interview with Financial Advisor IQ

Posted by Rita Raagas De Ramos on May 23, 2018 at

“Sometimes we call this the lowest common denominator rule, in that you make policy for maybe the average or even below-average person. And you can’t really allow a lot of exceptions for individuals. There were things we desired to provide for our client base that we didn’t think we could continue to do as employees. But as owners of an independent firm and as owners of the Cooke Financial Group and partners within the NOYES group, we have found that we have many, many more opportunities to serve clients in ways that the larger firm was having difficulty approving.”

– Chris Cooke, Partner and Senior Institutional Consultant, Cooke Financial Group (Noyes)


RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS, SPECIAL PROJECTS MANAGER, FINANCIAL ADVISOR IQ: Hello. I’m Rita Raagas De Ramos from Financial Advisor IQ, and with me today are Chris Cooke and Brian Cooke, who are partners and Senior Institutional Consultants at Cooke Financial Group, which is part of the NOYES Network. The Cooke Financial Group used to be with Wells Fargo, and now you’re part of the NOYES Network. Could you talk a little bit more about that transition?

CHRISTOPHER COOKE, PARTNER AND SENIOR INSTITUTIONAL CONSULTANT, COOKE FINANCIAL GROUP (NOYES): With Wells Fargo, we had come up from the beginning firms. There were many small firms that merged up into eventually Wachovia, which was purchased by Wells. And then we had A.G. Edwards merge in as well, and it became the Wells Fargo Advisors Network we know today. So many, many different firms and different merging.

In that environment, we were a W2 employee of the firm, and we had some flexibility. And we like the firm very much, and we continue to have a good relationship with the firm. But there are certain things in a large firm that they just can’t provide for every advisor in the firm.

Sometimes we call this the lowest common denominator rule, in that you make policy for maybe the average or even below-average person. And you can’t really allow a lot of exceptions for individuals. There were things we desired to provide for our client base that we didn’t think we could continue to do as employees. But as owners of an independent firm and as owners of the Cooke Financial Group and partners within the NOYES group, we have found that we have many, many more opportunities to serve clients in ways that the larger firm was having difficulty approving.

BRIAN COOKE, PARTNER AND SENIOR INSTITUTIONAL CONSULTANT, COOKE FINANCIAL GROUP (NOYES): I think I’d add that the key word to all of that is flexibility. Today, we have so much more flexibility than we did in the wire house world, at least in our opinion. We have things like our own investment banking division that sources various local deals that we could never participate on a big scale with a big firm like a Wells Fargo or a Merrill Lynch or what have you.

So having that flexibility is wonderful. We also have the ability to purchase a CPA firm and offer family office services. That’s impossible in the wirehouse world for us. So having an entrepreneurial spirit, flexibility, it’s really rejuvenated our business.

I mean, Chris and I have been in this industry for 26 years, and our heritage goes back to our father, back to 1969 for Cooke Financial Group. And it’s a whole new world for us in the last year and a half, and we’re having a lot of fun doing it.

We have the ability for even multiple custodial relationships. If one of our custodians doesn’t allow us to use a certain product on their platform, we can open a relationship with a different custodian. We have multiple relationships that way. And then we buy technology to aggregate performance data and statements together, and it works really well. We’re happy we did it.

RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: So do you also have a more open architecture investment strategy or investment profile for your clients?

CHRISTOPHER COOKE: I think the broad sphere of investing stocks, bonds, SMAs, mutual funds is the same by and large. But in the more esoteric areas of investing, when you think about we’re going to buy some real estate deals in our local community, those deals, in many cases, are very good investments for our clients. And we’ve found that some of our RIA or independent local competitors were doing those things for clients. And we had difficulty when we were part of the wirehouse, but now we’re doing those things.

So it’s in these esoteric areas, smaller areas. But in many cases, there’s big opportunities there.

RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I’m curious. So your father founded the firm in 1969. Do you still have a lot of the clients that he had? Have they stayed with the firm?

BRIAN COOKE: We’ve been really fortunate. We have a number of third generations and a few fourth generations that are part of the Cooke Financial Group. And it took us a few years to transition clients from John, our father, to Chris and I and to our team. I don’t think we really lost a client in that transition over those years, and it’s been wonderful. We’re very fortunate.

RITA RAAGAS DE RAMOS: I was going to ask if you being part of the company helped sort of keep those third- and fourth-generation children in check, I guess — or in-house, I guess.

BRIAN COOKE: We’d like to think so. I guess our struggle today is to work on the millennials, the up-and-coming generation. And so we’re trying to hire some folks that are really good with social media and can relate better with texting and Instagram and Facebook and all those different tools. Because that’s the next generation that will need to be served. So maybe we’ll get lucky and some of our kids will enter in the business and take Cooke Financial Group another 30 or 40 years into the future.

CHRISTOPHER COOKE: And that also ties back to that word “flexibility” and the independent channel. It’s probably easier to make decisions about social media and how you’re going to allow it to be utilized when there is a smaller firm and a smaller subset of advisors. And we might even differentiate and say certain advisors we’re going to say yes and other advisors we might say we’re not going to allow that. And the larger the firm gets, especially when you’re into the many, many thousands of advisors, the more those rules just become black and white and you can’t differentiate.

So flexibility and communication is important. And we think for the next generation of clients, these millennials in particular, the flexibility of how you communicate is becoming critical. They don’t necessarily want to communicate with us the ways that older generations have communicated. That’s a struggle for us to meet, but again, it’s whatever the client wants.


CHRISTOPHER COOKE: Thank you for having us.

BRIAN COOKE: Rita, thanks for having us.

What is it like to transition to Partnered Independence?

View this brief video to discover the experience shared by Sanctuary’s inaugural independent team, the Cooke Financial Group.

Cooke Financial Group Staying in the Broker Protocol. Chris and Brian Cooke Discuss Why in an Interview with Financial Advisor IQ

Posted by Rita Raagas De Ramos on April 4, 2018 at

Hint: It’s all to do with how the client sees the relationship.

The Broker Protocol has returned to the spotlight in recent months and that’s largely because of the exits of high profile signatories. Cooke Financial Group is staying in the protocol. Chris Cooke and Brian Cooke who are partners and senior institutional consultants at Cooke Financial Group, which is part of the Noyes network. In this interview they discuss why they’re staying in the protocol.

Transcript Highlight

Absolutely. We’ve been on both sides. We’ve been in a large wirehouse environment for many years — in fact, most of our careers. And we recently purchased an interest and moved our Cooke Financial Group to a smaller independent firm.

The first step in being part of the protocol, I believe, is the acknowledgment that it is the client who makes the determination of who their primary financial advisor is. If the Protocol for many, many years allowed advisors to move from firm to firm, it was sort of an acknowledgment that those advisors and those client relationships went together. When someone drops out of the protocol, they’re indirectly saying that the client relationship is with the firm and that the advisor is an employee of that firm. That’s a significant change in what’s probably been the norm over 20, 25, 30 years.

We believe if you ask the client who is the relationship with, most clients would say “my relationship is with either Chris or Brian or with the Cooke Financial Group.” Rarely would the client say, “My relationship’s with my firm.” And so we believe it’s the client’s interest that the protocol be honored.

I echo the same thing. It’s all about the client, in our opinion. If you ask them how they chose their financial services firm or who gives them their advice or who their primary financial consultant is, I think many of them, at least in our instance, would say — probably maybe all of them would say — they hired the Cooke Financial Group or they hired Chris or Brian or someone on our team, versus a specific firm.

So we believe in the protocol, we think it’s necessary.

View the original article

Appeals Court Strikes Down DOL’s Rule Regarding the ‘Fiduciary Standard.’ Christopher Cooke’s Reaction, as Seen on Financial Times Magazine

Posted by Rita Raagas De Ramos on March 28, 2018 at

The Financial Times Top 400 broker-dealer advisors’ reactions range from business as usual to supporting a uniform fiduciary rule by the SEC.

This is a reaction to The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering of the Department of Labor to vacate the fiduciary rule. The Securities and Exchange Commission is forging ahead with its own best interest standard.

Hear Chris Cooke’s thoughts at 2:34.

Transcript Highlight

CHRISTOPHER COOKE, PARTNER AND SENIOR INSTITUTIONAL CONSULTANT, COOKE FINANCIAL GROUP (NOYES): Speaking as a former law student, and I guess an attorney who never practiced, I would love to be a part of these court hearings and hear what different judges and different attorneys for each side have to say. But I think that the ruling that vacated the DOL rule was a split decision. By definition, we have some disagreement on what is happening.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure it matters. And the reason I say I’m not sure it matters is the heart and the guts of the Department of Labor rule is to do the right thing for the client. We have always believed in our practice in doing the best thing for the client. I believe over many, many years, that’s why we’ve been successful and grown. I believe the top advisors in the country broadly all do the right thing for the clients. The heart of this rule is going to be implemented because it’s the right thing to do.

Now, how it gets implemented is what we’re debating today. Will it be the Supreme Court reversing this Appeals Court, will it be a new rule from the SEC, or will it just be the evolution of the business? But the heart of the DOL rule is coming, and for those of us who’ve practiced, or have been in business and practiced for many years, it’s a good thing. It’s what we should be doing.

View the original article

BusinessWire: Noyes Advisors Listed as Best-in-State Wealth Advisors by Forbes

Forbes Names Chris Cooke and Brian Cooke to 2018 Best-in-State Wealth Advisors

INDIANAPOLIS — Noyes, a 110-year-old wealth management and investment banking firm, announced that two of its financial advisors have been named on Forbes 2018 Best-in-State Wealth Advisors. The esteemed recognition was given to J. Christopher Cooke, CIMA® and Brian F. Cooke, CIMA®, two Partners of the Cooke Financial Group at Noyes (“CFG”). The Cooke brothers have received prestigious recognitions from leading financial publications as Barron’s, Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Registered Representatives Magazine.

“As a financial advisement firm that provides top-quality, comprehensive financial planning services and solutions to valued clients, we are incredibly elated to receive this recognition from Forbes,” said LH Bailey, Chairman of the Board at Noyes. “These two gentlemen represent the best of the financial planning industry.”

Forbes’ Best-in-State Wealth Advisors list comprised of over 2,000 top performing advisors across the country and selected according to their state. Forbes ranking, developed by its partner SHOOK Research, is based on an algorithm of qualitative and quantitative data, rating thousands of wealth advisors and weighing factors like revenue trends, AUM, compliance records, industry experience, and best practices learned through telephone and in-person interviews.

To view the full list, visit

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$1.7B Wells Fargo Team Jumps to Midwest Firm Noyes

Financial Advisor IQ

A Chicago wealth management and investment banking firm has snatched a $1.7 billion financial advisor team from Wells Fargo Advisors, the Indianapolis Business Journal reports.

Led by brothers Chris and Brian Cooke, the 11-person Cooke Financial Group will become the largest branch of 108-year old firm David A. Noyes & Co., according to the publication. The Cookes are joining the firm as partners and will buy into Noyes to become part owners, Chris Cooke tells IBJ.

Cooke Financial plans to keep its employees as well as its office, which it will sublease from Wells Fargo, the publication writes. The firm will also continue working with custodian and clearing services provider First Clearing Corp., which is a Wells Fargo affiliate.

Brian Cooke tells IBJ the move was done on a “friendly basis.” The brothers also tell the publication they were motivated to make the move in part because Noyes, which has an investment banking unit, will enable them to offer their clients new products and services.

But the move was also precipitated by a desire to “eliminate the conflict of interest that may arise by being associated with a wirehouse,” Chris Cooke says in a press release from Noyes.

Wells Fargo has been mired in controversy following revelations that its retail branch employees opened two million fake deposit and credit accounts without customers’ knowledge. The company has paid $185 million in fines but regulators continue to call for further investigations. Wells Fargo Advisors, the wealth management arm of the company, has been left relatively unscathed by the scandal, but a plaintiff law firm has launched an investigation into whether its brokers participated in similarly aggressive sales tactics.

View the original article.

Noyes Attracts $1.7 Billion Advisory Team Cooke Financial Group

Partnership Validates Noyes’ Ability To Empower Advisor Success

Chris and Brian Cooke

CHICAGO, IL, November 18, 2016—Noyes, a 108-year-old employee-owned wealth management and investment banking firm, announced today the addition of Chris and Brian Cooke, and the entire Cooke Financial Group [“CFG”] to its wealth management group.

Founded in 1969 and based in Indianapolis, IN, CFG provides investment consulting, financial planning and wealth management services to high-net-worth individuals and families, not for profit organizations, institutional clients, retirement plans and trusts.

Led by award-winning advisors Chris and Brian Cooke, the firm’s team boasts more than two centuries of collective licensed financial services experience and is comprised of Certified Investment Management Analysts, Certified Financial Planners, a non-practicing Certified Public Accountant and attorneys, as well as senior institutional portfolio managers. The firm currently advises assets in excess of $1.7 billion.

Mark Damer, President and CEO of Noyes, explained that Chris and Brian are joining the firm as partners, while opening the firm’s largest branch. This partnership solidifies CFG’s ability to extend services to its current clients, and expand investment decisions. The union of Cooke and Noyes strongly enhances the momentum of Noyes’ recruiting effort and exemplifies how Noyes’ client-centric culture, operational expertise and robust practice management are significant attractors for wire-house refugees and independent advisors alike.

“We are honored and thrilled to partner with such a prestigious and sophisticated advisory team. This is a highly strategic merger and an ideal cultural fit between two successful firms,” said LH Bayley, Chairman of the Noyes Board of Directors. “The partnership will primarily empower Cooke to do more for their clients and concurrently attain a series of key strategic goals. These include: expanding family office capabilities, offering clients additional investment opportunities leveraging Noyes Capital Markets’ capabilities and expertise, while boosting growth by acquiring firms or teams with complementary offerings.”

“Because the culture and vision of our firms are so perfectly aligned, it made perfect sense to join forces. CFG was founded on our aspiration to deliver independent, integrated and comprehensive wealth management advice and planning solutions to the families we serve,” stated Chris Cooke. “Merging with Noyes will enable us to eliminate the conflict of interest that may arise by being associated with a wirehouse, gain access to a wider selection of investment products, and serve more affluent clients.”

“The ultimate beneficiary of our decision to join forces with Noyes are our clients. As owners of an independent advisory firm, we have greater flexibility to communicate directly with our clients, and offer them customized portfolio planning and management solutions,” declared Brian Cooke. “Equally important is our ability to be true entrepreneurs and guide our firm and manage our team in full autonomy. Noyes is a firm built by advisors for advisors.”

Over the past twenty-five years, Cooke’s principals have received countless media recognitions for their exemplary dedication to client service and performance. These include:

Financial Times
2016, 2014, 2013 – Top 400 Financial Advisors

2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004
Top 100 Advisor, Top 1000 Financial Advisors, Top 1,200 Advisors and Top 10 Advisors in Indiana

RegisteredRep Magazine – 2007 Outstanding Advisor Award – Nation Top 10 Chris Cooke

OnWallStreet Magazine – 2006 Top Advisors Under 40 – #12 Brian Cooke

Research magazine/The Winner’s Circle
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Top-Ranked Advisor Teams in America

Five Star Wealth Manager – 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

Indy’s Best and Brightest, Winner Banking/Finance – 2007 Brian Cooke

Indianapolis Business Journal—2006, 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame – Brian Cooke

Chris and Brian Cooke Receive National Recognition from The Financial Times and Barron’s Magazine

Indianapolis, IN (March 30, 2016) – Chris Cooke, Managing Director – Investments, and Brian Cooke, Managing Director – Investments of the Cooke Financial Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC have been recognized as two of the Top 400 Financial Advisors in the country by Financial Times.1

In addition to this honor, Chris and Brian Cooke were both ranked among Barron’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in America and named to the Top 10 Financial Advisors is the State of Indiana for 2016.2

“We are privileged to be recognized alongside other top financial advisors in the industry,” said both Chris and Brian Cooke. “Each day, we show up with one goal in mind – helping our clients succeed financially. It is quite an honor to be recognized for doing what we love to do.”

Both the Financial Times and Barron’s magazine are highly regarded industry publications and the entire Cooke Financial Group team is pleased to be included in these prestigious publications.

About Barron’s

Barron’s ( is America’s premier financial magazine, renowned for its market-moving stories. Published by Dow Jones & Company since 1921, it reaches an influential audience of senior corporate decision makers, institutional investors, individual investors and financial professionals. With new content available every week in print and every business day online, Barron’s provides readers with a comprehensive review of the market’s recent activity, coupled with in-depth, sophisticated reports on what’s likely to happen in the market in the days and weeks to come.

1 Financial Times Top 400 Advisors
The rankings are based on data provided by investment firms. Factors include assets under management, experience, industry certification and compliance record. Investment performance and financial advisor production are not explicit components.

2 Barron’s Top 1,200 Advisors
The rankings are based on data provided by thousands of advisors and financial services firms. Factors included in the rankings were assets under management, revenue produced for the firm, regulatory record, quality of practice and philanthropic work. Investment performance isn’t an explicit component.