Citizens names new CEO of private wealth subsidiary

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Citizens Financial Group in Providence, R.I., announced a changing of the guard at its private wealth subsidiary on Monday.

Clarfeld | Citizens Private Wealth said that Rick Suarez will succeed the firm’s founder Rob Clarfeld as CEO. Previously, Suarez was co-chief operating officer and a member of Clarfeld’s executive committee and investment policy committee.

“Rick and I have worked together since 1996 when he first joined us as a financial planner,” said Clarfeld, who will remain with the firm as executive chairman. “Rick is widely respected for his leadership and execution skills and I have complete confidence in his ability to steward the firm in the coming years.”

Robert Varriano, who has been with Clarfeld for 29 years, was also named sole chief operating officer on Monday.

Citizens announced in late 2018 that it would buy the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Clarfeld Financial Advisors and the deal closed early last year. John Bahnken, the CEO and president of Citizens Bank Wealth Management, said the bank and the firm “are now serving clients as a combined team.”

Clarfeld was one of a number of nonbank acquisitions the $164.4 billion-asset Citizens has made in recent years. Citizens has also bought Bowstring Advisors in Atlanta, Franklin American Mortgage in Franklin, Tenn., and Western Reserve Partners, a mergers-and-acquisitions adviser in Cleveland.

Those deals have helped Citizens boost its fee revenue and offset margin pressure. In an interview last fall, CEO Bruce Van Saun said that Citizens would continue to focus on fee income in what’s expected to be a flat interest rate environment this year.

Suarez joined Clarfeld out of Pace University, where he earned an MBA in finance at its Lubin School of Business. He is also a Certified Financial Planner.

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