Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wells Fargo to sell 42 insurance offices, none in Charlotte

Wells Fargo said Thursday that it is selling 42 insurance brokerage and consulting offices to New York-based insurance broker USI Insurance Services.

No Charlotte offices will be affected, the San Francisco-based lender said.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Wells Fargo said the move comes as the company increasingly focuses its insurance business on serving middle- and upper-middle-market customers in key markets, including Charlotte, Dallas, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Such places are where its insurance business "has the greatest growth potential and stronger partnerships with the bank's commercial customers," Wells Fargo said.

Charlotte is Wells Fargo's East Coast hub. The company employs about 20,700 in the region, across various lines of business.

Wells Fargo said its insurance operations employ about 260 people in Charlotte, including about 164 in the brokerage and consulting division. The lender said it has approximately four main offices in Charlotte for its insurance operations.

In the USI deal, the bank is trimming offices in its business line that provides insurance consulting, sales and services to middle-market, upper-middle-market, international and risk-management customers. The business line's focus is property and casualty insurance, employee benefits and targeted insurance programs for industries that include real estate, health care, energy, special risk, public entity, aviation and hospitality.

The offices that are part of the deal are scattered across the U.S., in states that include Alaska, Florida, New Mexico and Ohio. The deal also affects Columbia, S.C.

The offices being sold are small, regional operations, Wells Fargo said. The roughly 750 Wells Fargo employees who work in those offices will be offered employment by USI, Wells Fargo said.

After the sale, Wells Fargo said, its insurance brokerage and consulting business will operate in 55 locations.

"Wells Fargo is 100 percent committed to the insurance business and serving the needs of our customers," Laura Schupbach, head of Wells Fargo Insurance, said in a statement. "We are focused on strengthening our insurance operations in larger markets where we can partner more closely with the bank to serve more of our core middle- and upper-middle-market customers."

Just last week, USI announced the completion of its acquisition of New Jersey-based benefits broker Oscar & Associates.