Wells Fargo to increase headcount in Singapore

Expansion is part of US bank's plans for double-digit growth in revenue and profit

United States financial services giant Wells Fargo will boost its headcount here.

It aims to expand its staff numbers from around 100 now to about 150 over the next 18 months, well up on the 35 local employees it had in early 2013.

"We expect to grow revenue and profit here at double-digit rates for a number of years - and that means more people," said Mr Timothy Sloan, executive vice-president and head of wholesale banking, at a briefing. Wells Fargo's main business here is providing services to financial institutions and corporates. It also has an asset management arm.

The bank's efforts to increase its range of services began with its merger with Wachovia in 2009.

"We have a broader range of products that we can provide to the financial institutions (which were banking with Wachovia)," said Mr Richard Yorke, the executive vice-president and group head of the international group.

Wachovia's business had involved conducting domestic banking services on behalf of foreign banks, including collecting payments and deposits and providing trade finance. Wells Fargo inherited Wachovia's client base, and its offices in 35 countries, including Singapore.

Since the merger, Wells Fargo has sought to offer other services, such as asset management, factoring and hedging, to financial institutions which were banking with Wachovia. Wells Fargo is also looking to increase the number of Singapore-based financial institutions banking with it, by making the most of the large and still-growing financial services market here, Mr Yorke said. The bank also aims to serve more American companies with operations here.

The number of the bank's US clients with operations in Singapore is substantial, yet it has probably engaged with only 15 per cent to 20 per cent of those Singapore branches, said Mr Colm McCarthy, its head of global banking in the Asia-Pacific.

"For a local bank, it might not be such an important relationship because all they see is the small office... whereas we will treat the overseas offices (of our US clients) in the same way that we treat their business back home. So they get the same level of service and that's what they really appreciate," Mr McCarthy said.

Wells Fargo can also make quicker decisions on whether to lend to these customers, as they are familiar with these US companies' management team and strategy, Mr Sloan added.

Wells Fargo is also seeking to service more Singapore companies expanding into the US.

Mr Sloan said its substantially greater presence in the US relative to other locally based banks gives it a greater understanding of that market. The bank also has a wider range of US products to offer, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Wells Fargo to increase headcount in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe