Wells Fargo (ticker: WFC) reported record net income of $4.9 billion in the third quarter, up 27 percent from last quarter, but results in its wealth, brokerage and retirement business remained stagnant.
Advisor count was 15,167, the firm said, virtually unchanged from the second quarter headcount at 15,170 and down from 15,188 in the third quarter of 2011. Wells Fargo Advisors, its full-service platform, reported 10,857 advisors in the quarter, a slight drop compared to 10,913 in the second quarter. Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, the independent platform, had 1,153 advisors in the quarter, compared to 1,134 in the second quarter.
“I think headcount’s a wash,” said Scott Smith, Cerulli Associates analyst. “Some wirehouse advisors are falling off to the independent channels. They’re still recruiting from elsewhere so headcount being flat is about what we’d expect looking forward.”
That said, advisors at Merrill, Morgan Stanley and UBS generally have higher-producing advisors than Wells Fargo making them more desirable to other brokerages. Average advisor AUM was $114 million at UBS and $92 million each at Merrill and Morgan Stanley, at the end of 2011, according to Cerulli data. At Wells Fargo, the average AUM was $80 million.
But Wells Fargo has a more diverse advisory base than the other wirehouses, catering to employee-bank advisors and independent contractors along with the traditional broker, Smith added.
“From that perspective, they’re almost like the LPL of the wirehouse world, where they’re building out the plumbing to serve advisors in just about any way,” Smith said.
Total client assets in the wealth, brokerage and retirement business was $1.4 trillion, 4 percent higher than last quarter and 10 percent higher than the year-ago period. On a conference call Friday morning, Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan attributed the boost to growth in average core deposits, up 2 percent, and retail brokerage managed asset accounts, up 7 percent, a combination of net gains and market performance. Year over year, managed account assets were up 25 percent. Wealth management client assets were $199 billion for the quarter, up only slightly from last quarter and up 4 percent from the third quarter of 2011.
Yet earnings in the segment were down 1 percent sequentially to $338 million, which Sloan attributed to lower net interest income, which fell 3 percent from last quarter. That was offset by higher brokerage transaction and asset-based revenue.
The company also reported a record "cross-sell" rate of 10.27 products per household, compared to 10.04 in the 2011 period.
The slight increase in cross selling is attributable to the advisors becoming more familiar with the bank's offerings the longer they are there, Smith said. It likely will continue to increase. “They’re still going through that integration.”