Wells Promotes John Alexander to Run Advisor Branch Network
Wells Fargo Advisors said Friday that it has promoted John W. Alexander to oversee some 14,000 advisors in its standalone private client group (PCG) and bank-affiliated wealth brokerage services (WBS) offices.
Alexander, who had been in charge of Wells Advisors’ branches in the western half of the U.S., will continue to report to David Kowach, president and head of the brokerage unit. Rich Getzoff, his counterpart in charge of eastern U.S. branches, will directly oversee the firm’s 12 regional presidents and report to Alexander.
“I want us to to simplify how we operate, decrease bureaucracy, and reduce costs,” Kowach wrote in an e-mail to all Wells Fargo Advisors employees that extolled the virtue of operating an “integrated branch network” under a single leader. “We will more closely align policies and procedures across our channels.”
Wells Fargo added wealth brokerage services—which services branch banking clients that operate in both branches and freestanding offices—to Kowach’s larger domain of financial advisers and independent brokers in August, days ahead of announcing the early retirement of the company’s wealth management division head Jay Welker.
The changes are part of a broad restructuring of Wells’ 36,000-person wealth and investment management division aimed at saving $600 million in annual expenses that was announced by division head Jonathan Weiss in August. It followed a commitment from bank leaders to tighten management and change a sales-quota-driven corporate structure that has cost Wells Fargo Corp. hundreds of million of dollars in fines and settlements since late 2016.
The wealth management businesses have not been directly implicated in the scandals, but Kowach said his aim in integrating the branch network is to better service customers. “[W]e need to focus on what’s working (and do more of it), and quickly fix anything that’s not,” the e-mail said. “In a nutshell, we need to become faster, simpler and better. This starts by simplifying our business and focusing on ways to strengthen client/advisor relationships.”
Despite the attempt at simplification, Kowach reiterated his commitment to the virtues of running a “multi-channel” brokerage business that includes brokers who are independent contractors in its FiNet division as well as private client group brokers and WBS brokers, who are employees, in bank branches and other “hubs.” Wells Fargo also has a traditional private banking trust-and-estate business and a family office business that had operated under Welker and were combined in an earlier reorganization in November.
In addition to elevating Alexander, Kowach created a new “private wealth group” for brokerage clients who keep balances of at least $5 million with the firm—another high-net-worth unit. It will be led by Jim Hays, who had previously led the 3,400 wealth brokerage services advisors. It includes about 750 private wealth brokers.
Hays, who reports to Kowach, will also oversee an “accreditation process” that allows brokers in other channels to earn “private wealth financial advisor” credentials while keeping their current reporting lines, the email said.
Kowach also promoted Joe Nadreau to manage the firm’s FiNet independent brokerage business and its First Clearing operations and other “outsourced services,” christening the new realm Independent Brokerage and Platform Services. FiNet head Kent Christian and First Clearing head John Peluso will report to Nadreau, whose former role was managing “innovation and strategy.”
Nadreau’s unit will also “test new and emerging business models like service and custody for RIAs,” Kowach wrote, referring to a new “channel” for registered investment advisers that is widely viewed as a landing net Wells is preparing to capture brokers fleeing to become independent advisers. Wells’ first RIA breakaway opened shop earlier this month.
Alexander has worked at Wells and predecessor fund-distribution firm Evergreen Investment Services for 18 years.