Wells Fargo to Boost Asia Staff as Morgan Stanley, RBS Trim

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the most valuable U.S. bank and largest home lender, plans to increase its workforce in Asia by at least 10 percent over the next three years as rivals slow their expansion in the region.

“We’re hiring,” John Rindlaub, president of Wells Fargo’s Asia Pacific operations, said in an interview yesterday in Hong Kong. “As the other institutions have either slowed their growth or even cut back to reduce their expenses, we’ve been able to add great people.”

The bank plans to hire more than 400 people for its 4,200- person team in the region, including 20 in Hong Kong by the end of the year and 15 to 20 in China over the next 12 months, Rindlaub said.

Wells Fargo is expanding into Asia, seeking revenue growth as record-low interest rates in the U.S. cut into margins and an unemployment rate above 8 percent puts a damper on new credit. Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf has also made the San Francisco-based bank one of the country’s most active in buying loan portfolios and businesses from European lenders.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) cut 70 jobs, shutting its cash equities, equity capital markets and corporate finance units in Korea, as well as the cash equities operations in Indonesia and Singapore, it said in March. Morgan Stanley (MS), owner of the world’s biggest brokerage, is eliminating as many as 100 jobs, primarily in the trading business in Europe and Asia, people briefed on the plans said this month.

‘Traditional Banking’

“Many other large institutions have had large equity capital markets and debt capital markets businesses which have slowed down dramatically, and that’s one of the reasons for the cutback,” said Rindlaub. “We don’t have a large exposure in that area. A lot of our focus is on traditional banking activities.”

Second-quarter net income at Wells Fargo increased 17 percent to a record $4.62 billion, or 82 cents a share, on strength in mortgage banking and a drop in expenses.

The bank agreed in June to purchase WestLB AG’s subscription-financing business and about $3 billion in loans.

Wells Fargo in Asia offers wholesale banking services for financial institutions, large Asian companies and U.S. corporate clients seeking to expand in the region. The Asian operations are an “important part” of the bank’s international business, which as a whole contributes about 3 percent of Wells Fargo’s assets and 5 percent of loans, according to Rindlaub.

He “sees opportunity” to grow Wells Fargo’s Asia revenue by at least 10 percent a year over the “next several years,” he said.

Wells Fargo operates international branches in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo, according to presentation material posted on its website. The lender also runs representative offices in 12 other Asia-Pacific cities including Hanoi, Jakarta, Mumbai and Sydney.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Tong in Hong Kong at stong17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net

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