In a push to expand its presence in Washington, D.C, and Richmond, Va., Wilmington Trust has tapped industry veteran William T. LaFond to head up its wealth advisory business in those markets. It also hired four wealth advisors, all from Wells Fargo Private Bank, to serve high-net-worth clients in the region.

LaFond, formerly managing director of business development for Wilmington Trust's Family Wealth group, has more than 15 years of experience in investment management and financial planning. He most recently oversaw a team of wealth specialists in Delaware, according to the company.

The new team incorporates the advisors and other professionals who had been members of the M&T Bank wealth management group, LaFond said in an interview. M&T Bank and Wilmington Trust merged last May. The new group, rebranded under the Wilmington Trust umbrella, has a total of 12 people, LaFond said.

One of LaFond's top goals is to attract new clients and to widen the services available to existing clients. He particularly wants to build on the private banking services M&T Bank offered. Another major goal is to raise the profile of Wilmington Trust in the metro D.C. area. "We want to make sure," he said, that people know that "one of the best in the business now has a presence in town."

Prior to joining Wilmington Trust in 2004, LaFond advised high-net-worth clients and their families as a vice president and financial planner with U.S. Trust Co. of New York.

Wilmington Trust is no stranger to the D.C. market, LaFond said. "For a long time, we looked to open an office here…but hadn't found an opportunity that made sense to us," LaFond said.

The D.C. market, one of the wealthiest in the country, is a battleground for many wealth management firms. BNY Mellon Wealth Management last November opened its first office in Washington, D.C., as part of a strategic push to be in the top 10 U.S. wealth markets. And Northern Trust opened an office there a month earlier to expand its wealth management business in the area.

Wilmington Trust recruited four senior wealth advisors from Wells Fargo Private Bank to "round out the team" in D.C., said LaFond. The new hires will bring expertise in the areas of financial planning, trusts and private banking. The new hires are Al Behar, vice president and senior private client fiduciary advisor; Bruce Hoffmeister, vice president and senior financial planner; Eric Schoener, vice president and senior private client advisor; and Jast Sohi, vice president and senior private banker.

Behar joins Wilmington Trust with more than 27 years of wealth management experience, the company said. Prior to Wells Fargo Private Bank, where he was senior trust and fiduciary advisor, Behar worked for UBS Trust Co., Wachovia Trust Co. and Riggs & Co.

Hoffmeister has more than 26 years of financial services experience, specializing in estate planning, wealth management, and tax planning. Prior to Wells Fargo Private Bank, he served as a partner with Washington, D.C., firm Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell.

Schoener brings more than 18 years of financial services experience to his position, according to the company. Prior to joining Wilmington Trust, he held senior positions with Wells Fargo Private Bank, U.S. Trust, and Charles Schwab.

Sohi, a 25-year veteran of the financial service industry, served as senior private banker at Wells Fargo Private Bank, providing investment management, financial planning and trust services to high-net-worth clients. Earlier in his career, he worked for U.S. Trust, First Union Bank, Perpetual Savings Bank, and Federal Home Loan Bank of America in various roles.

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