Wells Fargo said to discuss sale of asset management unit

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Wells Fargo is exploring the sale of its asset management unit, a business that could fetch more than $3 billion, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The bank, which has been reviewing its strategy, began discussing a possible deal with other asset managers and private equity firms last month, according to the person, who said a divestment isn’t certain. Wells Fargo expects to receive bids on the unit this month, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

CEO Charlie Scharf, who took over last October, is preparing to lay out his vision for turning around the lender after scandals under his predecessors. He told analysts this month he’s exploring a wide range of options and that he would provide more information to investors in January. The San Francisco-based company’s stock has slumped 57% this year.

A Wells Fargo spokesperson declined to comment. The discussions were reported by Reuters earlier Thursday.

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Asset management has seen a wave of consolidation in recent years with banks bulking up their divisions to run them more efficiently, or selling them to rivals eager to grow trillion-dollar franchises. They’re reacting to a squeeze on fees from cutthroat competition and a shift to passive fund management.

The pressure on small and medium-size managers comes from the very top of the industry, which is dominated by index fund giants BlackRock and Vanguard.

Among major U.S. banks, Wells Fargo’s business is a mid-sized player, with $607 billion in assets under management at the end of September. Morgan Stanley’s purchase of Eaton Vance, announced this month, will vault it into a club of asset managers with $1 trillion in client assets, joining JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. Rivals including Citigroup and Bank of America don’t have major presences in that business.

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