With no set post-merger plans for the investment services business, Wells Fargo & Co. and Norwest Corp. are each forging ahead with existing initiatives.
Though their efforts are independent, they should be enough in the same spirit to eventually jibe, said Dennis Mooradian, executive vice president of private client services at Wells.
"We're going ahead. These things have been in the works for a long time," said Mr. Mooradian.
"There is such consistency between their strategy and ours there is no reason to disrupt any plans," he said.
Though Norwest, based in Minneapolis, is decentralized and Wells, based in San Francisco, is not, both use a cross-selling model to gain market share from affluent clients.
Because Norwest and Wells have similar approaches to the investment services and management businesses, the merger should go more smoothly and be more productive than Wells' acquisition of First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles, said Mr. Mooradian.
The Wells-Norwest deal, announced in early June, is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Wells Fargo has $64 billion of assets under management for institutional and individual investors, $30 billion of which is for wealthy investors. Norwest manages $52 billion. The aggregate amount in individuals' accounts is not available.
Mr. Mooradian said the combination still throws a lot of "issues" up in the air, such as how - and whether-to integrate the staffs, products, facilities, systems, and compensation.
"That will create some extra challenges, except they are not as major as in the case of the First Interstate merger where there was significant overlap in territories," he said. Mr. Mooradian joined Wells a month after that deal closed.
Wells placed its stamp on First Interstate's business after clearing out many of the executives who had managed the private client, brokerage, trust, and mutual fund groups.
This time will be different, he said, because no single way of doing business will be imposed, allowing some regional autonomy.
"We decided to have somewhat different models that are more flexible, depending on the market and its needs," he said.
"You'll see a slower evolution to make sure that employee and client relationships are not disrupted," he added.
A spokesman for Norwest concurred, adding that transitions are expected to "actually take several years."
"Many, many teams are meeting between the companies to understand what each company does and then marry those two approaches together," the spokesman said.
In the meantime, Wells is going full steam ahead with new investment products and services. Norwest is not holding back either: Its pilot test for the Portfolio Management Account, which combines investment and banking services, has expanded since January.
On Monday, Wells launched on-line brokerage trading, said Mr. Mooradian, who is also president of the brokerage Wells Fargo Securities. This year it launched a spate of products, including a wrap account; an asset management account that combines brokerage and banking services; and a fee-based, no- commission brokerage account.
This spring the private client group completed a reorganization that entailed moving trust officers, portfolio managers, brokers, and lenders into the same offices, called investment centers.
Its one-year-old alliance with Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co. under which nonproprietary products are obtained for clients continues. And Mr. Mooradian said an ad campaign is under review.
Overall, Mr. Mooradian said, he expects his group to contribute greatly to Norwest's stated goal of having 25% of banking group earnings come from investments, brokerage, trust, and insurance. In 1997, that figure was 14% for Norwest.