Prudential Financial, the holding company for Prudential Securities in the U.S., says it intends to focus solely on high-net-worth individuals in Europe. In doing so, Prudential yesterday said it will sell or close a number of its retail brokerages in Europe. Operating under the Prudential-Bache International name, the firm will only focus on high-net-worth clients and asset management in Europe.

An undetermined number of branches will be affected; an unknown number of employees will be laid off.

"We believe it is very important for Prudential-Bache to focus, more than ever before, on the development of its private banking and private asset management capabilities," says the company's 8-K filed with the SEC on November 25. "We believe these businesses are the key to effectively gathering more international assets under management, building Prudential's fee-based business worldwide and ultimately contributing to the growth and protection of our private clients' wealth."

"We're going to be going away from the traditional U.S. stock model and shift strategy toward private clients," said Prudential spokesman Mike Hanretta.

The American model of retail brokerage--in which clients buy or sell individual securities for a commission--never took off in Europe, despite U.S. brokerages swooping in over the years. Most retail investors in Europe buy stocks and mutual funds at their banks or even online. And rich people, who often hid money offshore, availed themselves of private banks, which offer tax optimization strategies and other fee-based advisory services. And that's what Pru-Bache intends to focus on.

"So, it's not surprising, really," says Andre Cappon, of CBM Group, a brokerage consultant in New York, "Europe never had brokers American style, except for in the U.K. Every American brokerage has tried [to export the commission model]. But it hasn't worked. Prudential is just doing what everybody else has been."

In addition, Prudential's Latin American operations will now be run from the firm's U.S. headquarters in New York City.

View the 8-K SEC filing here.