Kristi Mitchem, more than 12 months into her tenure as head of Wells Fargo Asset Management, can look back at a year that held an acquisition; the merger of three asset management divisions; and the fallout from a scandal on the retail banking side of parent Wells Fargo & Co.
The deal for WFAM to acquire Analytics Investors was being negotiated when Ms. Mitchem took over as president and CEO of the $491 billion WFAM in June 2016, after the retirement of Michael J. Niedermeyer, who had served as its leader since 1994. The acquisition was announced in August and closed in October 2016. Ms. Mitchem had been an executive vice president at State Street Global Advisors, where she led the Americas institutional client group.
Meanwhile, her immediate boss, David Carroll — who until his retirement last month was senior executive vice president and head of wealth and investment management — had charged Ms. Mitchem with conducting a review of the firm's operations with an eye toward merging its three separate divisions. (Mr. Carroll was replaced by Jonathan Weiss, who had been the head of Wells Fargo Securities, effective July 1.)
By December, she had completed that task, combining institutionally oriented Wells Capital Management with the funds management unit and its affiliated managers unit, which included hedge fund-of-funds manager Rock Creek Group and stable value manager Galliard Group.
"We are now one asset manager," said Ms. Mitchem, who added the move allows for better coordination with investment and distribution teams and will result in new investment strategies.
A key part of her plan for WFAM is an expanded multiasset solutions investment team, which now manages $28 billion. Ms. Mitchem hired Nicolaas Marais, naming him president of WFAM. Mr. Marais will take on a broad range of responsibilities, including leading the multiasset solutions team and developing investment strategies with the fundamental investment teams and subsidiary Analytic Investors LLC, Ms. Mitchem said. Mr. Marais had been the head of multiasset investments and portfolio solutions at Schroder Investment Management.
Expanding the solutions team is a good idea, said James Sinegal, an investment analyst with Morningstar Inc., Chicago. "Wells' asset management group has traditionally been stronger in fixed income and liquidity, which generally carry lower fees than some other areas," Mr. Sinegal said in an email. "They are obviously dealing with the same industry trends as competitors, especially the rise of passive, but I like their strategy in this area. They are focused on growing in areas where some form of 'active' management still adds value, including multiasset strategies and outcome-based investing in general."
"My personal view is that the level of 'active' management is just changing; rather than individual security selection, investors are now paying for solutions," he added. "Wells is headed in this direction."