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Wells Fargo combines UHNW business under new Abbot Downing brand

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Wells Fargo & Company (WFC) is consolidating its ultra high net worth business offerings for individuals and families with USD50 million or more in assets, as well as their foundations and endowments, through a newly branded boutique to be known as Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo Business.

Abbot Downing combines two well established Wells Fargo businesses — Wells Fargo Family Wealth and Lowry Hill. The combined firm, led by James Steiner (pictured), has USD27.5 billion in client assets and a staff of approximately 300. The firm is part of Wells Fargo’s Wealth, Brokerage and Retirement group, one of the largest US wealth managers, with USD1.3 trillion in client assets as of 30 September.

Abbot Downing was a 19th-century New Hampshire builder of the iconic stagecoaches that have come to represent Wells Fargo, who was Abbot Downing’s largest customer. Abbot Downing was known worldwide for their ingenuity, high-quality craftsmanship, and distinctive passenger experience.

"We pride ourselves on the values on which Abbot Downing was founded and will use the name to reflect the tailored solutions, high-touch service and attention to detail our clients expect," says Steiner. "With the strength of Wells Fargo, our team of highly specialised professionals delivers a full suite of services to address the financial, social and human dimensions of multi-generational wealth."

The Abbot Downing brand will be launched in April 2012. The firm, which has financial relationships with clients dating back generations, will seek to expand its market share among the roughly 10,000 households in the US that have USD50 million or more in investable assets and collectively control more than USD1 trillion.

"By helping clients access the financial strength and tremendous breadth of capabilities across Wells Fargo, we have a significant opportunity to grow in this market," says David Carroll, head of Wealth, Brokerage and Retirement. "Whether the client needs merger and acquisition services, insurance, or commercial banking, we can integrate our services across Wells Fargo and ultimately provide a better client experience."

If a family business owner is ready to sell, for example, Abbot Downing can partner with Wells Fargo Securities to provide access to private equity firms and other qualified buyers, helping business owners turn their illiquid assets into liquid assets to be reinvested. US middle market M&A deal activity was up 30 per cent in the first half of 2011 from the first half of 2010, according to Thomson Financial. Privately held firms represented almost 60 per cent of M&A deals. Families who experience sudden wealth from such liquidity events have complex needs beyond the scope of investment management.

"Abbot Downing goes beyond traditional wealth planning analysis by focusing on clients’ values, goals and vision," says Steiner. "Our advisors and Family Dynamics consultants focus not only on traditional wealth planning, such as cash flow, investments and wealth transfer, but also on human dimensions, such as family legacy, governance, leadership transition, family education and risk management."
 

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