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Exclusive: Wells names firm veteran to lead private client group

By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo Advisors, one of the biggest U.S. brokerage firms, said it has tapped company veteran David Kowach to take charge of its private client group, the company said Tuesday.

The group, which is the largest division of Wells Fargo & Co's brokerage channel, includes nearly 11,000 advisers in standalone brokerage offices.

Kowach is replacing Jim Hays, who recently left the private client group to oversee a smaller group of brokers based at the bank's branches. Hays had run the private client group since 2005.

Kowach, who will report to Danny Ludeman, chief executive of Wells Fargo Advisors, began his career as a financial adviser two decades ago. Most recently he led the firm's business development group, where he was in charge of increasing financial adviser productivity, recruitment, retention, as well as national sales.

Wells Fargo advisers reached by Reuters Tuesday described Kowach as a well-liked insider who knows the ins and outs of the firm.

An adviser based in the Southeast, who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press, said Kowach's biggest challenge will be to preserve Wells' regional feel while continuing to compete with the other large brokerage firms, including Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Bank of America Corp's Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Both have larger adviser forces and more assets under management.

Many Wells advisers promote the firm as being focused on "Main Street," contrasting St. Louis-based brokerage with Wall Street-based financial companies.

(Reporting By Jennifer Hoyt Cummings; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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