PNC Aims for the Mass Market

Pittsburgh-based PNC Investments, the brokerage arm of PNC Bank, is deep into an aggressive hiring campaign, aiming to add 100 financial consultants by year's end an effort it hopes to duplicate in 2005. The hiring jag is part of a push to attract mass-market clients those with $100,000 to invest or less whom PNC believes are neglected by high-net-worth-obsessed wirehouses. We've hired 63 people so

Pittsburgh-based PNC Investments, the brokerage arm of PNC Bank, is deep into an aggressive hiring campaign, aiming to add 100 financial consultants by year's end — an effort it hopes to duplicate in 2005.

The hiring jag is part of a push to attract mass-market clients — those with $100,000 to invest or less — whom PNC believes are neglected by high-net-worth-obsessed wirehouses.

“We've hired 63 people so far, and I'm confident we'll have the rest before the year's out,” says Mike Mortensen, president of PNC Investments.

Observers say that hiring pushes like PNC's can attract competent young brokers, but they usually struggle to get the best talent, in part because of the middle-market focus.

But PNC has encountered no such trouble at the high end, says Mortensen. “We're getting young guys with a lot of experience looking for a place to grow, but we're also getting a substantial number of wirehouse vets with $300,000-plus production,” he says.

Mortensen declined to share specifics on recruiting packages, but did say they have included a “very generous upfront bonus” based on a combination of trailing 12-month production, the size of the rep's book and tenure at the previous firm. These packages are offered on a case-by-case basis.

One recent recruit, who spent seven years with Smith Barney, says PNC “feels a lot like a wirehouse. I've got everything here — superior tech, products — that I had at Smith Barney, plus the referrals and cross-selling opportunities” that come with working in the arm of a bank.

Nick Ferber, a recruiter with Sanford Barrows in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says the failed wirehouse broker is often the classic success story at banks.

“If a broker is willing to work hard, so much will be dropped in their lap in the way of assets and leads, they can't go wrong,” says Ferber.

According to PNC, the sales force's mass-market approach has pushed revenue at the brokerage arm from a measly $28 million in 1994 to $128 million last year.

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