Wells Fargo Investment Bankers Get Coach to Hone Pitches

Wells Fargo & Co., the lender expanding its securities unit to challenge Wall Street competitors, hired an outside firm to help investment bankers win more business.

Wells Fargo began a pilot program last year with Kingstree Group, a London consultant that trains senior bankers in skills they need to secure more advisory and underwriting business, said Jessica Ong, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based bank. Kingstree’s website says the firm conducts one-on-one sessions, group workshops and provides online learning to give bankers more confidence and better presentation skills.

Kingstree’s hiring adds to evidence of Wells Fargo’s ambitions in investment banking as it pursues niches dominated by firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Wells Fargo is expanding while disclaiming any desire to be No. 1, saying it’s motivated by needs of its customers. The bank opened trading floors last month in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Our senior leaders want continuing education and a further refining of their skills, so we went outside the system like most companies would do,” Ong said. “This is standard industry practice.”

Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf, 59, is bolstering the securities business acquired in the rescue of Wachovia Corp. during the 2008 financial crisis. Rob Engel and Jonathan Weiss oversee investment banking and capital markets, while Tim Mullins and Walter Dolhare manage the sales and trading businesses. The four report to John Shrewsberry, president of Wells Fargo Securities.

League Tables

Hiring a coach has been done before in the industry, said Terry Connelly, former dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and an ex-managing director at Salomon Brothers Inc.

“If they are hiring a consultant to help them sharpen the focus of what is potentially within their grasp that sounds to me like an act of sound corporate discipline,” Connelly said. “In this case, one would hope they had managed to hire a few bankers who knew what they were doing and could provide rather more experiential and hands-on guidance.”

Once, at Salomon, Connelly hired an English professor from Amherst College to help his bankers write better pitch letters. The instruction helped the 28-year-old investment bankers who were calling on executives such as the finance chief at International Business Machines Corp., he said. Nevertheless, they kept it quiet, he said.

Deep-Dark Secret

“To bring in a consultant to teach you how to be a better banker strikes me as something you want to keep as a deep-dark secret,” Connelly said. “I think a consultant can be very useful but it ought to be kept very quiet and it ought to be very focused.”

Among U.S. bond underwriters, Wells Fargo was 10th last year, excluding its own deals, up from 13th a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bank ranked 10th both of the last two years in U.S. equity and equity-linked deals, and 19th for U.S. mergers and acquisitions in 2012, up from 21st the year before.

Kingstree, created in 1974, works with the world’s largest corporations and financial institutions, according to its website. Jim Good is the firm’s U.S. chairman.

“The written document is important, but it rarely determines a win on its own: ‘No one ever bought anything from a bunch of slides!’” according to the Kingstree website. “The impression created by the professionals who will do the job or deliver the product is vital.”

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