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Wells Fargo Hits Pause on Eliminating a Fee Waiver

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A Wells Fargo branch in New York (Photo: Bloomberg) A Wells Fargo branch in New York (Photo: Bloomberg)

Several weeks after it moved to raise the client asset level at which an account fee was waived, Wells Fargo Advisors has put the decision on hold. 

The wirehouse told its roughly 13,500 employee advisors last month that starting Sept. 1 — client households would need assets of $500,000 in their accounts to avoid fees that typically are as high as $300 per year; earlier, the asset level to avoid the charge was $250,000.

But Thursday, the bank said it had suspended the move due to “the current environment and to ensure we are able to best serve our clients.”

The news comes as Wells Fargo is taking a number of steps to address client concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Earlier this week, the bank suspended some property foreclosure sales, evictions and involuntary car repossessions. To clients who reach out to Wells Fargo, it is offering fee waivers, payment deferrals and other assistance tied to credit cards and lending programs.

Plus, it is temporarily closing some branches, shifting hours, moving staff and doing more business via drive-through facilities. “We will continue to evaluate this fluid situation and take additional action as necessary,” CEO Charlie Scharf said in a statement.

Wells Fargo’s advisor headcount stands at roughly 13,510 vs. about 13,950 a year ago. That’s down some 1,575 (or nearly 10.5%) from Sept. 30, 2016, when the firm had close to 15,085 registered reps and began making headlines for creating millions of fake accounts.

In late February, the bank agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve potential criminal and civil charges tied to the fake-accounts scandals.