In a twist on the recent trend to open private banking offices in high-growth areas, Wells Fargo & Co. is opening centers designed to advise its own private bankers.
The company recently opened offices in its hometown of San Francisco, Denver, and Minneapolis that will serve hundreds of employees who work in its high-net-worth services unit. Many banking companies are sharpening their focus on the affluent, a segment that is viewed as a potentially lucrative market for cross-selling brokerage, asset management, and banking services. Wells Fargo is among those targeting the extreme high end of the market.
Jan Ferris, a Wells Fargo vice president of investment management and senior product manager, noted that the high-net-worth market includes baby boomers and the emerging affluent, such as those who struck it rich as employees of dot-com companies or through investments or inheritance.
In San Francisco and Denver, customers with $10 million or more of investable assets qualify for Wells Fargo's private client services. In Minneapolis the threshold is about $5 million.
Wells Fargo manages $120 billion of assets, about $55 billion for customers who would fall into its definition of high-net-worth. It has 850 financial consultants in 23 states, as well as about 500 trust officers and 180 portfolio managers.
J.P. Morgan & Co., which is also expanding its private banking, tends to target individuals with about $5 million of investable assets, though that threshold is not as rigid as it once was. Citigroup goes after customers with $3 million or more.
Wells Fargo said the new centers are the next step in a three-year project to improve employee interaction in its financial planning, trust, and brokerage units.
While customers meet with their private bankers at existing private client offices, the bankers themselves can use the new centers, said Michael Cole, senior vice president and national sales director for Wells Fargo Management and Trust.
"It's not a client walk-in, but a center for assistance," Mr. Cole said. The company's private client offerings cover such areas as private banking, brokerage, trust and investment management, he said.
The aging baby boomer generation, with its concerns about retirement, tax, and estate planning, prompted the need for the centers, where Wells Fargo employees can meet to come up with strategies for customers, Mr. Cole said.
Each center has seven to 10 specialists with expertise in estate, financial, and tax planning as well as business succession.
The Minneapolis center, for example, located on the 28th floor of the city's Wells Fargo Tower, includes a senior wealth planner, senior financial planner, a strategist, a program analyst, and a high-level administrative officer.