JIM HAYS: PRESIDENT; PRIVATE CLIENT GROUP; WELLS FARGO ADVISORS; ST. LOUIS, MO.
SOUND BITE: “The Wells Fargo brand has been phenomenal. It’s been a big win-win.”
Sometime this summer, the last Wachovia Securities branch signs will disappear as the Wells Fargo Advisors logo rises in their place.
It’s been a long time coming. The iconic Wells Fargo & Co. acquired Wachovia nearly a year and a half ago — a period during which Wachovia was consumed with integrating its own acquisition of A.G. Edwards.
At the helm: Jim Hays, a Wachovia veteran who heads Wells Fargo Advisors’ new private client group, a division of more than 11,000 financial advisors split just about evenly between Wachovia and A.G. Edwards alums.
“What’s different now from a year ago is that then we were in the middle of a merger, spending a lot of time merging branch offices, policies, procedures, compensation programs. In the private client group, we are out of that mode now,” says Hays, 46. “Now, we’re spending much more time focusing on growth and being a great operator of the business versus being a great integrator of two organizations.”
As part of the process, Wells Fargo Advisors has retained or reengineered best practices from its two legacy firms. A client loyalty program, called 4Front, which rewards advisors for enhancing their relationships with clients, is a carryover from Wachovia. So is Envision, an investment and financial planning tool. A holdover from A.G. Edwards: the firm’s much lauded training program, which Hays defines as “best in class.”
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo, the nation’s biggest mortgage lender, has grown its investment banking business post-merger in response to demand from the private client group’s corporate clients. It’s not just about delivering more small business loans and syndicate and structured product offerings, Hays says, but providing access to thought leadership.
“Everyone brings something to the party,” he notes.
One of the biggest additions: the Wells Fargo brand itself.
“Our advisors have said ‘Thank God we’re with Wells Fargo.’ The Wells Fargo brand has this long, long history. When the market was at its most volatile, our local banking stores had so much demand from clients just walking in making deposits. They saw it as a safe haven, a place of stability,” says Hays. “Our advisors viewed it the same way. They wanted to distance themselves from the Wachovia brand.”