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Looks like Wells Fargo could use a do over in their wealth management unit when it comes to the fourth quarter of 2019.

In fact, you can imagine that managers and executives in and around the wealth division couldn’t wait for the 2020 NYE ball to drop a couple weeks ago – cause 2019 was brutal.

Some numbers to digest:

  1. Wells Fargo lost a ‘net’ 211 advisors in the fourth quarter alone. That’s after pretty strong recruiting momentum in Q4. So the real number is probably closer to 300.
  2. In a raging bull market the wealth division’s profits took a beating – down 63% year over year.
  3. Expenses also soared, up 23% from the year ago period.
  4. Meanwhile, despite the three pain points above, this was Wells Fargo’s most successful recruiting year ever, based on head count and recruit metrics – average T12 and AUM.

The headlines will sting a little bit over the next week and may even slow some recruiting momentum that has been built at the firm. The pipeline at Wells Fargo, as we hear it from recruiters, is pretty robust. Offering the biggest deal on the street certainly is paying its dividends.

But the numbers above are a seriously deep hole to dig out of. 2020 needs to be a year of ‘quick wins’ on the recruiting trail, and headlines that don’t derail the fragile but recovering reputation of the firm.

A bottoming out of the internal metrics at Wells Fargo WMA should set everyone up for a rousing 2020 Q3 and Q4 though. Let’s see if they can properly take advantage of both deflated numbers and expectations.


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