Wells Fargo searching for rainmaker in bid to boost dealmaking franchise

A woman exits a Wells Fargo ATM in the Manhattan borough of New York, October 10, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo MunozThomson ReutersWoman exits a Wells Fargo ATM in the Manhattan borough of New York

By Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co , in a bid to boost its dealmaking franchise, is hunting for a new head of mergers and acquisitions, according to people familiar with the matter. The bank’s existing head of mergers, John Laughlin, has moved to a vice chairman role, a spokeswoman said.

Wells is looking for a senior dealmaker who can help the bank win roles on high-profile transactions in which it has not historically been a part, the sources said.

Wells, based in San Francisco, has its East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is where Laughlin has been based and where many of its bankers sit – rather than in New York, the hub of Wall Street banking.

“John Laughlin’s appointment to vice chairman recognizes the key role he played in leading a fivefold increase in our M&A business,” said Rob Engel, head of investment banking and capital markets at Wells Fargo.

Wells has seen its stock price and return on equity rewarded for focusing on wealth management and Main Street lending, and this latest move reflects a desire to build out its investment banking franchise.

Although the bank is consistently ranked as one of the top lenders to corporate America, it has lagged in traditional investment banking areas like financial advisory and capital markets.

The bank posted about $2 billion in U.S. investment banking fees in 2015, according to Thomson Reuters data, ranking it eighth among peers. JPMorgan Chase & Co , Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc generated fees nearly double that of Wells.

Wells captured a 4.7 percent share of U.S investment banking fees, and has climbed less than 1 percent since 2008, when it acquired Wachovia to build up its banking business. The bank did not crack the Top 20 for advising on announced U.S. mergers and acquisitions last year.

Rival bank executives are convinced Wells may soon make further inroads into investment banking.

“Wells Fargo is very actively, very aggressively, and very successfully building its U.S. investment bank,” JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon told Bloomberg in March. Dimon said that for Wells to remain competitive, it will need to expand overseas, which may require buying another bank.

Wells, however, has tended to downplay its investment banking ambitions, describing it as one more way to serve corporate customers.

The more modest view has won favor with investors, who have rewarded Wells with a higher price-to-book value than banks such as JPMorgan. Wells trades at 1.48 times book value, compared with JPMorgan’s 1.03 times book.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2016. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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