* No. 4 U.S. bank targeting 20 countries for growth
* Focus on serving U.S. customers abroad
* Foreign loans equal about 5 percent of total
By Rick Rothacker
Nov 6 Wells Fargo & Co is ramping up
commercial lending and treasury management operations in Canada
as part of an international expansion that will eventually reach
20 countries outside the United States.
The No. 4 U.S. bank by assets on Tuesday said it's adding
wholesale business lines in Canada after receiving a license in
September that allows it to make loans to and take deposits from
corporate customers but not consumers.
Canada is the ninth country where the bank has increased
capabilities to serve businesses outside the United States in a
plan that will take about three years, said Rajnish Bharadwaj,
Wells Fargo's head of cross border governance. The bank is
targeting locations in Europe, Asia and eventually Latin
"Canada is one of our more significant opportunities,"
Foreign loans equaled about 5 percent of Wells Fargo's total
loans and 3 percent of total assets as of June 30, according to
the bank's most recent quarterly securities filing. Wells
doesn't provide a breakdown by county, but Canada is in the top
five, Bharadwaj said.
The bank's international business could double over the next
five years, but the percentage of assets and loans shouldn't
change much as the rest of the company grows, he said. Overall,
Wells has offices in 37 countries, offering services such as
The San Francisco-based bank previously had select
businesses in Canada such as asset-based lending and equipment
finance, but under its new license it will now have commercial
banking, global banking, commercial real estate and energy
banking businesses in the country.
The bank has added 25 employees in its banking operations
and will likely double that over the next year, said Rick
Valade, Wells' country manager for Canada. Overall, it has about
75 people in offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and
Foreign banks generally have had a tough time gaining scale
in the Canadian banking industry, which is dominated by five
large domestic lenders that are protected from takeovers by
While a handful of U.S. banks operate small subsidiaries in
the country - Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp
among them - the trend in the wake of the financial
crisis has been for them to sell off non-core Canadian assets
rather than add.
Indeed, Wells Fargo shut down its Canadian consumer lending
business in 2010.
Wells will aim to serve existing U.S. customers with
subsidiaries in Canada, Canadian companies with business in the
United States and local Canadian companies.
"We very much respect the Canadian banks," Valade said.
"We're not looking to compete directly with them. In most
circumstances, we're truly taking our customer relationships
that we have in the U.S. and being able to service those needs
Wells Fargo shares rose 35 cents in morning trading to