Wells Fargo Makes Canada Priority in Global Expansion

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the fourth-largest U.S. lender by assets, said it added 25 bankers in Canada and made the country a priority for international expansion.

Canada’s “right at the top,” Richard Yorke, who leads the company’s international group, said today in an interview at Bloomberg News’s Toronto office. “The Canada strategy is clearly a part of our overall international strategy, and the strategy is focused around leveraging the American nexus, our capabilities and customer base in the U.S.”

Canada’s government gave San Francisco-based Wells Fargo approval in September to offer commercial and corporate banking, adding to the firm’s equipment-financing and capital-finance operations in the country.

Wells Fargo, which had about 135 employees in Canada before the expansion, added bankers specializing in commercial lending, corporate banking, commercial real estate and energy in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, Richard Valade, country head, said in the interview. The firm said it plans to add 20 more workers within a year.

“We’re now going to be able to serve our U.S.-based clients that have operations in Canada,” Valade said. “We’ll be able to serve Canadian businesses that have dealings in the U.S. and we’ll also be able to deal with local Canadian companies.”

Europe, Asia

The bank’s global expansion, which began toward the end of 2010, now includes 20 nations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, Yorke said.

Wells Fargo’s international presence is the smallest of the top four U.S. commercial banks. The company had $39.7 billion in foreign loans, or about 5.1 percent of its total at the end of September, “substantially all” of which are commercial loans, Wells Fargo said today in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last year, Wells Fargo said it planned to expand quickly in China. The bank, in building up the international business, is relying on relationships and offices acquired in 2008 when it purchased Wachovia Corp. and spared the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender from bankruptcy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Doug Alexander in Toronto at dalexander3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net; David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net

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