Abbot Downing: Wells Fargo’s fortune hunters

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Oct. 8 2014, Updated 12:00 p.m. ET

Serving the über-rich with a new brand

Wells Fargo & Co (or Wells Fargo) (WFC) only recently began providing services to ultra-high-net-worth individuals. This group of select and discriminating clientele is a very important lot. They are few in number, but represent big business opportunities. The highly individualized service they require comes at a high cost. And it must be branded differently. To meet the requirements of this discerning group, Wells Fargo created a separate division called Abbot Downing.

Wells Fargo- Abbot Downing- Saul

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Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo business, delivers comprehensive wealth management services to ultra-high-net-worth families, individuals, endowments, and foundations. Typically, Abbot Downing clients hold more than $50 million in assets. Abbot Downing individually tailors wealth management solutions to meet each client’s needs.

An area rich with opportunities

The U.S. has the highest number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals. And their numbers are growing. The bank estimates that there are currently about 10,000 potential clients in the U.S. with more than $50 million of assets available for investment. At the end of 2013,  Abbot Downing managed assets worth nearly $39 billion for about 600 clients. The division was the eighth-largest family office in the U.S.

Wells Fargo plans to grow this high-fee part of its business. Its competitors, Bank of America Corporation (BAC), JP Morgan Chase & Co (JPM), and Citibank, of Citigroup Inc (C), are already strong in this area. Smaller banks, such as those in the exchange-traded fund Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), are not big players.

We’ve now looked at several business area where Wells Fargo performs as well as its competition. In the last parts of this series, we’ll look at areas where this isn’t the case.

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