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Wells Fargo Names First 'Chief Fiduciary Officer'

Joseph Ready is now the head of Trust & Fiduciary Services for the scandal-ridden bank, and the first chief fiduciary officer.

Wells Fargo may be having trouble finding a new CEO, but it has named a "chief fiduciary officer" who has been tasked with overseeing investment managment and administration for trust and administrative services across the bank's Wealth & Investment Management, or WIM, unit.

Joseph Ready, the new head of Trust & Fiduciary Services and the chief fiduciary officer for WIM, told that he plans to streamline and improve trust services delivered across the bank's network of financial advisors, the private bank and Abbott Downing. For instance, he said, Wells Fargo, a fiduciary as a trust administrator, will digitize the opening of accounts in a bid to create a better experience for existing clients, and then scale those changes across the services the bank offers, Ready said.

Wells Fargo, like others, is expecting the Baby Boomers to pass $68 trillion to their children in the coming decades (according to numbers from a Cerulli Associates report), and that transfer of wealth from one generation to the other means a glut of customers who could benefit from estate planning. If Wells Fargo can deliver that, those clients, and whoever is inheriting their money, become stickier and a perhaps a "customer for life," the bank hopes. Extending trust services to more clients isn't just a business growth strategy – clients now expect their advisors to see their entire financial life and give "holistic" advice, including estate planning, according to Ready.

“There are a lot of components in financial service industry that, I would argue, are becoming commoditized," Ready said. "One thing that I would argue isn’t being commoditized, and adds value, is advice.”

Ready said he didn't know if Trust & Fiduciary Services would be available to the independent registered investment advisors partnering with First Clearing, a Wells Fargo & Company subsidiary that began providing custody services to fee-only RIAs in January.

Ready will report to Julie Caperton, head of the unit's Wealth Client Solutions, and continue to serve as chair of the Wells Fargo Bank N.A. Trust Committee that oversees and reviews products, services, operations and results of fiduciary activities.

“Joe’s appointment to this important leadership role is a testament to his many years of managing complex fiduciary institutional and retail businesses in a way that prudently balances growth, risk and compliance and efficiency,” Caperton said in a statement. “We are committed to growing our fiduciary business responsibly as we deliver services that meet our clients’ financial needs.”

Since 1999, Ready previously led the Wells Fargo’s Institutional Retirement & Trust business, that included more than 5,000 employer-sponsored retirement plans, 7.5 million customers and oversaw $827 billion in assets. But Principal Financial Group acquired the business for $1.2 billion in April, doubling the size of its record-keeping assets and making a juggernaut in the retirement space even larger. No specific terms of that deal were disclosed, but Wells Fargo stands to earn an additional $150 million contingent on better-than-expected revenue retention. Ready will assist in the transition of the business while engaging his new roles at the company, he said.

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