Wells Fargo wins deal to recruit Credit Suisse U.S. brokers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Credit Suisse Group AG has awarded Wells Fargo & Co the exclusive right to recruit the Swiss bank’s brokers who work in the United States, the companies said on Tuesday.

People exit and enter Wells Fargo ATM in the Manhattan borough of New York, October 10, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Although Credit Suisse’s brokerage business has become profitable in the last two years, it is too small “to sustainably compete without significant investment or acquisition,” the bank told brokers in an internal memo

About 275 brokers work in Credit Suisse’s 13 U.S. offices. Wells Fargo operates the third-largest brokerage network in the United States, with about 15,000 advisers.

Credit Suisse Private Banking, a name adopted to lure wealthy Americans although it is not a bank, had revenue of about $700 million in 2015 and minimal profit, said people familiar with the business.

The recruiting arrangement comes on the eve of a strategy update that Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam is giving investors on Oct. 21. Thiam, hired in July, will likely outline shrinkage of the bank’s capital-intensive trading businesses and expansion of its wealth and asset management in Asia and Africa.

Wells’s ability to convince Credit Suisse brokers to join is not a sure thing. Brokers have been deluged with calls from Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and other large firms and wealth management boutiques as word of the parent bank’s strategy leaked out, brokers and recruiters told Reuters. About 20 moved in the past two weeks, despite pleas from their managers to wait and hear what a Credit Suisse-approved rival will offer.

The offers will be made by top Wells executives. David Carroll, head of Wells’ wealth and investment management division, and Wells Fargo Advisors President Mary Mack are meeting Credit Suisse’s New York City brokers Wednesday morning, brokers said. The allure is that Credit Suisse clients are wealthier than those of average Wells brokers.

Since Credit Suisse entered the U.S. market 15 years ago, its brokers have enticed the wealthy with the cachet of the Swiss name and products such as initial public offerings and private equity investments sourced from Credit Suisse investment bankers.

Wells is offering jobs at its private client group, which work out of standalone brokerage offices, and in its Wealth Brokerage Services unit that services wealthy clients of the fourth biggest U.S. bank in its branches. Several brokers said Tuesday they worry about the cultural fit.

The agreement does not allow Wells to recruit brokers in Canada or Latin America, the most profitable part of Credit Suisse’s Americas operation.

The Swiss bank has told dozens of traders and operations employees in the wealth unit they will be let go after the broker transition is completed in the first quarter of 2016, according to people familiar with the decision.

Reporting by Jed Horowitz; Editing by Bill Rigby, Bernard Orr