Wells Fargo Said to Increase 2014 Bonus Cap for Brokers

Wells Fargo & Co., owner of the third-largest U.S. retail brokerage, will increase potential bonuses for its more than 15,000 financial advisers in 2014.

Brokers bringing in revenue of at least $2.1 million can earn a bonus of as much as 11 percent, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. That’s an increase from 8.5 percent this year, according to two people with direct knowledge of the company’s practices.

Advisers who produce $300,000 of revenue could get 8.25 percent, according to the documents. That would be a raise from 2 percent in 2013, said the people, who asked for anonymity to discuss the confidential plan. Copies were distributed to managers and some financial advisers this week, the people said.

Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf is revising pay formulas as the lender seeks to retain brokers and boost assets under management. The bank competes for talent with Morgan Stanley, the world’s biggest brokerage, and Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch, which are striving to hold down costs. The new plan gives advisers more ways to reach targets and provides lower producers incentives to improve, the people said.

Bonuses depend on meeting a series of targets tied to different products and assets set by the San Francisco-based lender, according to the documents. The firm will offer deferred cash awards that vest over five years, one of the people said.

Raschelle Burton, a company spokeswoman, said Wells Fargo had no comment on the bonus plan.

Revised Plans

The largest U.S. brokerages are redoing pay plans amid efforts to reduce staff turnover and recruiting costs. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who leads about 16,500 advisers, said in October that compensation expenses may fall as brokers switch firms less frequently. Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, won’t offer new retention bonuses to Merrill Lynch’s top performers, John Thiel, the unit’s chief, said in an Oct. 14 interview. The firm employs about 14,000 brokers.

Wells Fargo’s new package coincides with the arrival of Mary Mack, 51, the brokerage chief who takes over from retiring head Danny Ludeman, 57, on Jan. 1. Mack will encourage advisers to enroll clients in managed accounts that carry an annual fee rather than those where the adviser picks individual stocks, she said in an October interview. The pay policies apply to advisers who manage both kinds of accounts, the people said.

Stock and bond commissions, annual client advisory fees, loan credits and annuity fees are among the revenue items that contribute to broker compensation, according to the company’s policies.

Planning Ahead

Terms include rewarding brokers who persuade clients to adopt the firm’s financial-planning tool, the documents show.

UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, also added a bonus for its 7,000 U.S. brokers to encourage them to create financial plans for wealthy clients. UBS will pay as much as 4 percent in deferred compensation based on the revenue generated, according to Gregg Rosenberg, a spokesman in New York.

Wells Fargo’s wealth, brokerage and retirement unit earned $1.22 billion through the first nine months, or about 7.5 percent of the firm’s total profit. Client assets at the brokerage unit rose to $1.3 trillion. The company is the biggest U.S. home lender and the nation’s most valuable bank by market value.

The firm also increased expense allowances for some brokers, the documents show. UBS increased the sum by $500 to $2,000 each, according to Rosenberg, the UBS spokesman.

Wells Fargo advanced 3 cents to $44.96 at 3:52 p.m. in New York. The stock has returned 35 percent this year counting dividends, in line with the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

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