Wells Fargo’s wealth, brokerage and retirement business posted $3.2 billion in revenue for the first quarter on Wednesday, up 8% from the previous year as asset-based revenue and net interest income increased.

The wealth, brokerage and retirement unit’s first quarter revenue was also up 4% from the fourth quarter due to increases in asset-based revenue and brokerage securities. The unit’s net income increased to $339 million for the quarter, marking a $57 million increase from the first quarter of 2010 and a $142 million increase from the fourth quarter.

Gains in that business come as Wells Fargo’s overall revenue for the quarter was $20.3 billion, a decline of $1.2 billion from the fourth quarter as the income from mortgage banking fees dropped by $741 million. Overall net income was $3.8 billion for the first quarter, a 48% increase over the year before and a 10% gain from last quarter.

By comparison, Bank of America Merrill Lynch posted gains for its global wealth and investment management business last week. That included $4.5 billion in revenue, an 11% increase from the previous year, and $844 million in pre-tax income, up 22% from 2010. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s results are scheduled for release on Thursday.

The wealth, brokerage and retirement unit was one of the businesses that generated linked-quarter revenue growth, Wells Fargo said, which also included commercial mortgage servicing, fixed income and equity sales and trading, global remittance and real estate capital markets.

The wealth, brokerage and retirement unit’s total provision for credit losses fell $22 million from the first quarter of 2010 and $72 million from the fourth quarter. Non-interest expense increased by 7% from the first quarter of 2010 with a rise in personnel costs, particularly broker commissions due to higher production levels. Non-interest expenses dipped 2% from the fourth quarter, by comparison, due to decreased non-personnel costs. Average core deposits increased $4 billion from the same time last year and the fourth quarter.

In the retail brokerage business, client assets rose 6% from the previous year to $1.2 trillion. Managed account assets increased 21% from one year ago to $45 billion, which Wells Fargo credited to net flows and market gains. The retail brokerage business also completed the brokerage conversion in January, which is aimed at providing its legacy brokerage customers with better access to products and services.

In wealth management, the investment management and trust asset-based revenue rose 8% from the first quarter of 2010. Deposit growth was also up 4% from the previous year, with average daily balances of $1.9 billion.

For the retirement business, institutional retirement plan assets reached $244 billion, a $20 billion or 9% increase from the previous year. Institutional retirement sales increased 40% from the previous year. IRA assets increased to $284 billion, up $26 billion or 10% from the same period in 2010.

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