After years of driving bank merger integrations, David Carroll is putting the same kind of energy into fine-tuning the wealth, brokerage and retirement services business he runs for Wells Fargo & Co
After a strategy review last year, his unit is pursuing a series of projects designed to improve cross-selling, simplify product offerings and meet efficiency goals laid out by the San Francisco-based bank, Carroll said in a recent interview.
Wells is polishing partnerships between the unit and other parts of the company in hopes of improving customer referrals, he said. Carroll's business has 4.5 million customers with $1.3 trillion in assets under management, but he has his eye on the 5.5 million Wells customers with $1.7 trillion in assets held outside the company.
It really does bring into crystal-clear relief the opportunity around cross-sell, he said.
The fourth-biggest U.S. bank, like the rest of the banking industry, is looking to win more from fees from customers as low interest rates make it difficult to earn money from loans. Banks are also shaving costs to boost profits.
Wells Fargo's wealth, brokerage and retirement unit is the smallest of its three main businesses, producing $1.3 billion in profit in 2011, about 8 percent of the company's total. The unit's net income increased 28 percent from 2010, helped by a $153 million gain from the sale of its H.D. Vest brokerage unit. In comparison, Bank of America Corp's
Carroll said he would like the business to be a much more material contributor to Wells Fargo's earnings. About 70 percent of the division's revenue is tied to financial market conditions, but he said the business is making progress in increasing revenue from recurring sources such as investment management fees and interest income.
The brokerage business, with 15,000-plus financial advisers, gives Wells another avenue for selling products to its banking customers, said Marty Mosby, a bank analyst with Guggenheim Partners. Carroll's unit could grow to 10 to 15 percent of the bank's earnings, but that will take a while, he said. It's not a rocket ship of growth you can jump on, Mosby said.
REFERRING MORE LOANS
Carroll stayed at Wells Fargo after the San Francisco-based bank acquired Wachovia in 2008 as that Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank edged toward failure.
At Wachovia, one of Carroll's most high-profile tasks was melding operations after the 2001 First Union-Wachovia merger, a transition that won praise for being customer-friendly. In 2005, he became head of Wachovia's capital management group, which included a brokerage built through acquisitions of Prudential Securities and A.G. Edwards Inc.
Now he oversees Wells Fargo Advisors, the third-largest U.S. retail brokerage; a private bank for affluent customers; and a retirement business that is a top provider of 401(k) plans, annuities and individual retirement accounts.
The brokerage firm, which is headquartered in St. Louis, added 75 advisers last year, bringing its total to 15,263, putting it behind only Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit and Morgan Stanley's
Carroll said he would like to build a larger sales force, but would not commit to a specific number.
Wells Fargo is known to carefully track sales of credit cards, insurance and other products to its bank customers. And executives have embraced the idea of cross-selling.
The firm does not have any mandatory cross-selling sales goals for its brokers, Carroll said. We've tried to help it be clear how it's to the benefit of the adviser and their relationship to try to get those clients' banking business here as opposed to somewhere else, he said.
Financial advisers are encouraged to pitch checking accounts, mortgages and other banking services to brokerage clients. As a whole, advisers are often wary of being pressured to sell bank products. They worry about losing control of their clients or being perceived as pushing services.
Even so, last year, about 70 percent of Wells Fargo's financial advisers referred at least one loan to the bank, up from 59 percent a year earlier.
Carroll's division is also streamlining product offerings and looking to optimize its workforce under a companywide efficiency initiative designed to trim $1.5 billion in quarterly expenses by the end of the year.
For example, Wells Fargo has reduced its money market mutual fund providers to 10 from about three dozen.
In another effort, the bank is looking at areas where it can use less expensive workers overseas, mostly for back-office processing tasks, Carroll said. The wealth, brokerage and retirement business currently has about 35,000 employees, with about 500 in India and Chile.
The total employee count is not expected to go down this year, but the composition will change, Carroll said. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to comment further.
(Reporting By Rick Rothacker; Editing by Jennifer Merritt and John Wallace)