Wells Fargo’s wealth, brokerage and retirement group earned $325 million in the fourth quarter, up 12 percent from the third quarter. This growth was driven by a 6 percent increase in revenue, which was primarily propped up on the sale of H.D. Vest plus investment gains in deferred comp plans. The sale of H.D. Vest yielded a $153 million gain, while the group’s deferred compensation plan turned in investment gains of $59 million. Excluding these items, revenue was down 5 percent on lower asset-based fees, retail brokerage transaction revenue and securities gains.
Total client assets in the retail brokerage group slid to $1.1 trillion, down 3 percent from the prior year. Managed account assets increased $19 billion, or 8 percent, from the prior year, driven by strong net flows. In the wealth management business, average deposit balances were up 3 percent from the prior year, while client assets of $198 billion were off 2 percent from the prior year. The group achieved record cross-sell of over 10 products per WBR household.
Total financial advisor headcount was flat for the quarter at 15,263 advisors.
Wells Fargo as a whole posted record earnings of $4.1 billion in the fourth quarter, up 20 percent from the year-ago quarter. The bank began cutting costs as part of a plan to slash noninterest expenses to a target of $11 billion by the fourth quarter of 2012.
In the second quarter of 2012, the bank expects expenses will decline by $500 million to $700 million from the first quarter, primarily due to elimination of merger expenses and lower comp and benefit expenses. The bank expects to trim costs through consolidation of consumer lending businesses and combining staff functions and technology groups, among other things.