Ameriprise Boosts Profits on Strong Wealth Results

Its advisor headcount stands at 9,767--down about 50 from the third quarter but up roughly 40 from last year

Ameriprise Financial (AMP) said late Wednesday that its operating profits were $388 million, or $1.80 per share, in the final quarter of 2012 vs. $223 million, or $0.95 per share, a year ago. Operating sales were $2.6 billion vs. $2.5 billion last year, while net sales were $2.7 billion vs. $2.6 billion a year earlier.

These results topped analysts’ estimates of its operating earnings, $1.47 per share, but not of operating sales, which were $2.68 billion.

“We had a solid quarter led by strong results in our advice and wealth-management business,” said Chairman and CEO Jim Cracchiolo (left), in a press release. “We reported a record high for assets under management and administration driven by strong client net inflows into fee-based accounts and equity market appreciation.”

The number of Ameriprise Financial advisors stood at 9,767 as of Dec. 31, up 37 from last year but down 48 from the prior quarter.

The unit includes 2,318 employee reps, a gain of 88 from last year and a drop of 10 from the third quarter. It also includes 7,449 franchise FAs, which is a decrease of 51 from a year ago and a decline of 38 from the earlier period.

Still, the company says it recruited 68 experienced advisors in the quarter and 382 advisors for the full year.

Average yearly fees and commissions per advisor grew by 11% to $396,000 for the full-year 2012 from $384,000 in 2011. Total clients assets stood at $353 billion in the fourth quarter, up 14% from last year and 2% from the third quarter.

Net inflows into wrap accounts were $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter, on par with third-quarter flows and up from roughly $1.4 billion a year earlier.

Wealth-Management Results

The Advice and Wealth Management unit had a 43% increase in year-over-year pre-tax operating earnings to $119 million, the same level as the prior quarter. Fourth-quarter 2012 pre-tax operating margin was 11.8% percent vs. 9.2% a year ago and 12.4% in the third quarter.

Operating net revenues grew 11% year over year and 5% sequentially to $1.0 billion.

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