CHICAGO — San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. announced Thursday that Phil Smith will lead its municipal products unit and government banking as the firm merges its muni operations with newly acquired Charlotte-based Wachovia Corp.

The bank’s announcement of a series of key management positions, including Smith’s, marks a significant step in Wells Fargo’s efforts to blend the operations of the two firms following the acquisition that closed at the end of last year.

Smith, who is based in Charlotte, previously had served as Wachovia’s head of government and institutional banking and co-head of municipal products. He joined the firm last February after a 20-year career at the bank’s hometown rival Bank of America Corp.

“To have the opportunity to lead this team is a great one. There has been a strong commitment from both firms to build their municipal businesses,” Smith, 47, said in an interview today. “When you look at our platform, by any measure, it’s one of the best in terms of our capabilities.”

The combined firms employ a roughly 200 municipal staff including banking, sales, trading, analytical and derivatives professionals, including about 80 from Wells Fargo’ broker-dealer Wells Fargo Brokerage Services LLC and 120 from Wachovia’s unit Wachovia Securities.

Neither firm ranked in the top 10 among senior managers overall, according to Thomson Reuters, but Wachovia ranked seventh among senior managers of competitive deals. Smith said he expects with the firms’ operations combined and the absence of several previously top-10 firms this year, Wells Fargo will be a top-10 ranked broker-dealer.

Together the firms operate public finance offices in all but 11 states with Wells Fargo concentrated in the Midwest, West, and Southwest while Wachovia is concentrated in the East, South, and Midwest. Wachovia’s base grew following its acquisition in 2007 of the former A.G. Edwards & Sons, which was based in St. Louis.

In addition to Wells Fargo’s commercial banking strength and each firm’s efforts to expand their tax-exempt capital markets business, Smith said the combined firms offer strong distribution capabilities in the institutional and middle markets and on the retail side with 16,000 brokers. The bank also can provide letter of credit and derivatives products.

No other managerial positions have been decided within the municipal group. Amelia Bond has managed Wachovia’s banking group while William Gabler managed public finance banking at Wells Fargo and reported to John McCune, who served as president of the broker-dealer.

“We’ve started the process of getting to know one another and reviewing our business practices. We have a lot similarities, but also differences in our capital markets structures,” Smith said.

He expects the firm’s ultimate business model going forward and leadership posts will be decided during the first half of the year. No decisions have yet been made on the broker-dealer’s name, although it will be aimed at promoting the Wells Fargo brand.

In addition, no decisions have been made yet on the broker-dealer’s formal base. While Wells Fargo’s commercial operations are based out West, its brokerage was largely based in Minneapolis following its acquisition of Norwest Corp. in 1998.

Wachovia based its brokerage in St. Louis after its acquisition of A.G. Edwards although that office has been cut in staff and hit with substantial defections. Smith said in any union of two firms, layoffs are a possibility, but he said there is little overlap in the firm’s regional presence. 

 

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