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Wells Fargo Recruiting Credit Suisse Advisors One-by-One

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WASHINGTON -- Wells Fargo is trying to woo Credit Suisse advisors, and it's doing so person-by-person, says Mary Mack, president of Wells Fargo Advisors.

Wells Fargo executives have recently visited Credit Suisse's U.S. offices, and Credit Suisse advisors have been flown out to St. Louis, where Wells Fargo Advisors is headquartered.

That trip allowed Wells Fargo "to tell them our story and see if it is a good fit," Mack told attendees at SIFMA's annual conference.

The two firms entered into an exclusive recruiting deal, allowing nearly 300 Credit Suisse advisors to transition to the wirehouse by early 2016. Terms were not disclosed.

Wells Fargo has also offered Credit Suisse a transition bonus equal to up to 300% of their trailing production, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mack, however, told SIFMA attendees that she doesn't anticipate recruiting every Credit Suisse advisor.

"For some it will not be a good fit based on the style of their practice," she says.

Still, it's a great opportunity for Wells Fargo, Mack said. The brand isn't as strong among wealth clients, particularly in cities on the East Coast, according to Mack.

And though Wells Fargo may not have the same level of recognition among wealthy clients as its rivals, it still can bring to bear the robust resources of a large bank, Mack said.

"Advisors who are serving high-net-worth families and individuals, we bring to them a real focus on planning. There is a lot we can offer in terms of our platform and suite of services," she said.

She added that the firm has worked on developing partnerships between its private bank and Abbot Downing, its elite boutique unit serving the ultrawealthy.

What success Wells Fargo has in enticing over Credit Suisse advisors remains to be seen. But several large advisors have opted to move to other firms.

In recent weeks, Credit Suisse lost several advisors to Merrill Lynch. An advisor managing $600 million in client assets moved to Merrill's Private Banking & Investment Group. Advisor Nicole Andres joined Merrill in New York.

In Chicago, Christopher Baldwin, Thomas Tyndorf and Andrew Skoglund also moved to Merrill's PBIG unit. Together, they managed $3.5 billion in client assets.

The Swiss firm isn't the only European bank exiting the U.S. private client market. Earlier this year, Barclays agreed to sell its U.S. wealth management unit to Stifel Financial.

The St. Louis-based firm also engaged in outreach to advisors. And Stifel offered Barclays advisors a transition bonus of up to 150% of their trailing production, according to people familiar with the matter.

However, many advisors have passed on Stifel's offer, choosing to move to other firms.

Last week, Stifel said that it expects to retain 95 to 105 Barclays advisors with $25 billion in client assets.  When the Stifel announced the acquisition in June, the firm said that the Barclays unit had approximately 180 advisors overseeing $57.9 billion in assets.

Terms of the deal, which closes next month, have not been disclosed.

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