Wells Fargo has spent the past two years consolidating the operations of its brokerage and private wealth management units, and the streamlining is expected to increase its appeal to advisors, according to company executives.
Barry Sommers, who took over as chief executive officer of wealth and investment management at Wells Fargo in June 2020, began describing his vision for consolidating the company’s brokerage and private wealth management units in September that year.
“If you look at our wealth business, it’s run entirely different today than it was several years ago,” Wells Fargo chief executive officer and president Charles Scharf said last Friday during a call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.
Wells Fargo previously had separate platforms between its brokerage business, two different private banks that operated under two different brands, a bank advisor channel, a completely separate digital platform and a platform for advisors who wanted to go independent, Scharf noted during the call.
“The digital platform and the platform for independent advisors had very little investment and all of those businesses were run as separate businesses with separate product platforms and separate technology,” Scharf said.
Wells Fargo’s product and service offering are much clearer now, according to Scharf. “We now have one set of products and service capabilities that all of those product lines have access to, and we’ve combined the entire field under one leader,” he said.
These days, Wells Fargo is investing in its digital capabilities and support for advisors who want to go independent, through its Wells Fargo Advisers Financial Network channel, “so if they want to do that, they can stay here as opposed to elsewhere,” Scharf said.
The company is also building out its investment, banking and lending capabilities and expanding its trust capabilities, according to Scharf.
A consolidated wealth management business is “one of the things that will make us appear for our financial advisors to be an extremely attractive place to be, whether they want to be an employee and work for Wells Fargo or they want to be independent and access our capabilities,” Scharf said.
Wells Fargo’s advisor headcount has dropped over the past two years, however, from 13,513 in December 2020 to 12,184 in June this year, according to its earnings reports for those two periods.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is also developing a service dubbed Wells Fargo Premier. It’s aimed at “helping provide a more differentiated and holistic service offering to affluent clients in the consumer business,” according to senior executive vice president and chief financial officer Mike Santomassimo.
“The wealth piece is going to be a big part of that. We already have 1,500-plus advisors in the branch system that do it,” Santomassimo said during last Friday’s call.
Wells Fargo Premier is a new integrated banking, lending and investing offering designed to meet affluent clients’ complex needs, according to a Wells Fargo spokesperson. Wells Fargo Premier Checking is available with no monthly fee when you have $250,000 or more in linked qualifying deposits and investment balances; otherwise, a $35 monthly service fee will apply, the spokesperson said.
Wells Fargo Premier is “a combination of the advisors and the products that Barry [Sommers] has to offer in our wealth management business. It is also leveraging the lending products that Kleber [Santos] is now responsible for, including credit card and including mortgage and potentially auto and some other things there, in an integrated offering with Mary [Mack]’s bank customers who are affluent,” Scharf said.
“It’s an offering across all of our product sets, directed in a much more segmented way than we’ve ever done in the past,” Scharf said.
Santos was appointed CEO of consumer lending this month, while Mack is CEO of consumer and small business banking.
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