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Wells Fargo’s wealth management unit reported record client assets of $1.5 trillion in the first quarter, up 7 percent from a year ago and 5 percent from last quarter, although the firm’s advisor count declined by 60.
On a conference call Friday morning, Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan attributed the growth to an improvement in the markets and the firm’s growing market share. That included strong growth in retail brokerage managed account assets, up $46 billion, or 16 percent, from a year ago, driven by strong net flows and market performance.
Although assets grew, advisor headcount slipped to 15,354, down from 15,414 in the fourth quarter of 2012. In a recent interview with WealthManagement.com, Kent Christian, president of Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, the firm’s independent arm, said the division had a record recruiting year in 2012, adding 152 advisors.
Wells Fargo’s reps continued to cross-sell products from the banking side, selling 10.33 products per household, up from 10.16 a year ago.
Wealth, brokerage and retirement earnings were $337 million for the quarter, up 14 percent from the year-ago period, driven by strong growth in asset-based fees and higher brokerage transaction revenue, said Sloan. But the segment’s earnings were down 4 percent from the fourth quarter, reflecting seasonally higher personnel expenses and lower net interest income.
Overall, Wells Fargo had the highest quarterly profit in its history--$5.2 billion, a 22 percent boost from a year ago and 2 percent gain sequentially. The firm’s revenue was down about 1.4 percent to $21.3 billion, which Sloan attributed to two fewer days in the quarter, a decline in equity gains from elevated levels the firm had in the fourth quarter, and an expected decline in mortgage volumes.