Peter Torvik begins his new job at U.S. Bancorp's investment management arm describing himself as a "rational incrementalist" - an executive who will fine-tune rather than rebuild the Minneapolis-based asset manager's strategy.
He says he intends to ease what some say has become a strained relationship between the banking company's First American Funds unit, where he was just named an executive vice president, and its investment management unit, Piper Jaffray. And he intends to boost the performance of First American's funds - a must if growth goals are to be met.
"I am not looking to do anything wholesale here. I am sure we will do some things to steadily tweak our current strategies, but there are too many things running correctly for any kind of overhaul," Mr. Torvik said.
The hiring of Mr. Torvik, 46, was announced Tuesday. He will be responsible for sales, marketing, and product management in the newly created position at First American Asset Management.
Mr. Torvik began his wealth management career in 1986 with Dain Rauscher. In 1989 he was named director of corporate development and helped refocus the company's brokerage and securities business. In 1991 he became president of Dain Rauscher's money management division, Insight Investment, and oversaw the launch of several money market funds and money management programs.
"My experience, both geographically and functionally, from Dain Rauscher is what got me here," he said. "The job I did there is really analogous to the one I will do here. This is familiar terrain, and I know the next step from here."
U.S. Bancorp purchased Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis investment manager, in 1998, but has let the unit remain relatively autonomous. The banking company exerts little control over Piper Jaffray's investment banking and capital markets groups. Though the strategy helped the bank avoid some of the clashes that have hurt other financial mergers, analysts say it has led to some less-than-friendly competition between Piper Jaffray and First American.
Ben Crabtree, an analyst who covers U.S. Bancorp for George Baum & Associates in Kansas City, Mo., said: "With the merger of U.S. Bancorp and Piper, it is clear that the bank is putting an emphasis on wealth management. Now they have to work to align their cultures."
Mr. Torvik said it should be simple to coordinate efforts with Piper Jaffray to improve wealth management for U.S. Bancorp's customers.
"Our business strategy here has been successful," he said. "It is planned and executed. This is absolutely not some type of rebuilding strategy. I want to be creative and build on what is here."
Tom Plumb, the chief executive officer of First American, ran the fund family before Mr. Torvik was hired. Given the asset management firm's continued growth, Mr. Plumb said, it was important to have someone focus on the family of funds.
"Peter brings to first American the experience he has gained in his outstanding career in strategic planning and corporate development in the financial services industry," the CEO said. "He is a real entrepreneur and he is passionate about this business."
First American has 38 open-end and 11 close-end funds, with $79 billion of assets under management. Mr. Torvik said he plans to increase that by 15% to 20% a year over the next five years, but he knows that even with a sizzling market, it cannot happen without better distribution.
"There are two ways to get distribution: You can either outperform everyone or outmarket everyone," he said. "We have spent a lot of money in the past year to improve our brand recognition, and we are out there. But let's be realistic - our marketing campaign can't compete with Fidelity's or Putnam's. We have to outperform."
First American Asset Management had $33 billion under management as of July 31, but growth has been stagnant. A year ago the firm had $32 billion of assets under management.
The hiring of Mr. Torvik is the second in the past two months by First American to upgrade its wealth management services. In June it named Jean L.P. Brunel a senior vice president and director of its high-net-worth group.