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Wells Fargo combines private bank, ultrahigh-net-worth arms

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Wells Fargo plans to combine its ultrahigh-net-worth business and private bank under one leader.

The merged operation will be run by someone yet to be named who will report to Jon Weiss, head of wealth and investment management, according to an internal memo. The two operations will retain their current branding and offerings.

The move also comes after news that Wells Fargo's private bank head, Jay Welker, will retire at the end of March, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Wells Fargo has made changes as it conducts an enterprise-wide review in the wake of a series of consumer scandals. The wealth unit has come under fire from regulators for potentially steering clients into investments that weren’t always in their best interest.

Like the larger Wells Fargo, the wealth unit is a collection of businesses from the bank’s predecessors including Norwest Corp. and Wachovia. Combining the private bank and Abbot Downing, the ultrahigh-net-worth unit, is part of Weiss’ quest to streamline his operation since he took over last year.

Wells Fargo has said it’s trying to find $4 billion in cost cuts by the end of next year. The San Francisco-based lender has seen elevated spending amid regulatory fines and legal fees. Weiss has said he plans to eliminate $600 million in costs by 2020 as part of that effort.

At the same time, the bank's retail brokerage business has suffered from advisor attrition. For the third quarter, Wells Fargo reported broker head count of 14,074 — a drop of 152 from the prior quarter and 490 from the same period a year ago.

Bloomberg News