Wells Fargo to Increase Asia Headcount to Serve Multinationals

Wells Fargo & Co., the most valuable U.S. bank, plans to boost headcount at its Asian banking operations by as much as 10 percent, as the region’s economic growth generates more business with multinational companies.

“The trend is clearly that we will continue to add,” said John Rindlaub, the bank’s regional president for Asia Pacific, in an interview in Hong Kong last week. “We look at how we can deepen our relationships and what capabilities do we need.”

Wells Fargo plans to add as many as 140 people to its 1,400-person wholesale banking team in Asia over the next 12 months, bolstering divisions such as corporate banking and compliance, Rindlaub said.

The bank is seeking to expand its Asia business as the region’s economic growth outpaces the U.S. and Europe, Rindlaub said. Banks are searching for more revenue while seeking to cap expenses as they wait for the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates, which many economists expect to occur later this year.

Wells Fargo remains a U.S.-focused institution, with about 3 percent of its profits generated outside its home country. The bank’s net income rose 5 percent to $23 billion in 2014 from a year earlier. In Asia, Wells Fargo aims to provide banking services to its U.S. clients operating in the region, and to Asian multinational companies which want to expand their operations in the U.S.

“We have the largest number of banking offices in the U.S. Outside retail, we have over 150 commercial banking offices,” Rindlaub said. “Often we have an office within 50 miles or even right close to the subsidiary of an Asian multinational.”

Asia’s Contribution

Asia is a “substantial contributor” to Wells Fargo’s international profits, said Rindlaub, 71, who declined to disclose figures on the regional business. He said the lender wants its Asian growth to be at least as fast as the bank’s overall expansion.

“We are on target, we’re having a good year” in Asia, Rindlaub said.

In China, Wells Fargo mainly provides financial services to local banks, Rindlaub said. The company is in the process of converting the Beijing representative office into a branch and is hoping to get the license within the next 12 months.

“That’s the principal opportunity for us. We have great relationships with all of the top Chinese banks,” Rindlaub said.

He said the bank also expects to boost the size of its business process outsourcing and other service operations in Asia, which currently employ 7,600 people.

Wells Fargo has six branches in Asia -- in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo, according to one of the bank’s presentation documents. It has 12 representative offices in cities such as Sydney, Beijing, Mumbai, Jakarta and Manila.