UPDATE 1-Ameriprise profit soars, driven by wealth business

Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:29pm EST

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Ameriprise Financial Inc said on Wednesday its fourth-quarter operating earnings rose 31 percent, driven by strong results from the company's advice and wealth management business.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company reported operating earnings of $367 million, or $1.71 a share, for the three months ended Dec 31. Analysts on average expected the company to earn $1.47 a share, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Operating net revenues rose 6 percent to $2.6 billion, boosted by increased activity and net inflows from Ameriprise advisers' clients. Client assets managed by the company's advisers rose 14 percent from the year prior to $352.8 billion.

The company's total assets under management and administration, which includes both the wealth and asset management businesses, rose 8 percent from a year ago to $681 billion.

While the ranks of Ameriprise advisers shrank by 48 during the fourth quarter to 9,767 at the end of December, net revenue per adviser rose 11 percent to $103,000.

Ameriprise, along with other smaller regional brokerages, has had success in recruiting veteran advisers from larger bank-owned brokerages.

Many of Ameriprise's big-broker recruits in 2012 came from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo Advisors, based on moves tracked by Reuters.

The addition of veteran advisers helps drive revenue for the company as the advisers bring with them significant client asset pools.

"We're executing our strategy well and maintaining tight expenses to offset headwinds from low interest rates," Chief Executive Officer Jim Cracchiolo said in a statement.

Cracchiolo said the company returned more than 130 percent of its full-year operating earnings to shareholders through ongoing share repurchases and dividends.

The company on Wednesday declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of 45 cents a share.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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