Advisor productivity rose 11% at Ameriprise, said the firm after releasing first quarter results.

The firm's wealth management division said that operating net revenue per advisor rose to $505,000 for the quarter from $454,000 a year ago. Advisor productivity has been rising across the industry, including at rival brokerages such as Morgan Stanley.

Advisor headcount had a net increase of 20 advisors from the previous quarter to reach 9,691 across both independent and employee channels, the firm said. Ameriprise said it recruited 77 experienced advisors, those with an existing book of business.

Retention rates dipped slightly: for independent advisors the figure dropped to 94.3% for the quarter from 94.7% from a year ago. For employee advisors the figure slipped to 91.0% from 91.5%

Total client assets also grew, rising to $452 billion from $418 billion, an 8% increase.

Although total assets in wrap accounts rose 8% year-over-year to reach $180 billion, net flows slowed: the firm reported $2.8 billion in net flows for the first quarter, down from $3.1 billion for the previous quarter and also down $4.2 billion for the year-ago period.

Ameriprise's wealth management division said that pretax operating earnings rose 16%, increasing to $210 million for the quarter from $181 million from a year ago.
Total operating revenues increased 7%, rising to $1.2 billion. Total operating expenses increased at a slower pace, rising 5% to reach $1 billion.

The pretax operating margin for wealth management rose to 17.1% from 15.8%.

The earnings report comes after the firm recently reorganized its management ranks. Bill Williams and Pat O'Connell, heads of the firm's independent and employee advisor channels, began reporting directly to CEO Jim Cracchiolo after Don Froude, president of the Ameriprise's Personal Advisor Group, stepped down earlier this year.


Overall, the Minneapolis-based Ameriprise reported a 7% year-over-year decline in profits, dropping to $479 million from $515 million.

Cracchiolo said in a statement that "while the operating environment was more challenging in the quarter with increased equity market volatility and continued low interest rates, we’re executing our strategy and remain focused on serving our clients and advisors."

Revenue grew 2%, reaching $3.06 billion. This missed analysts' estimates of $3.1 billion, according to Bloomberg data. While revenue from management and financial advice fees rose 6% year-over-year, it declined by 1% from the previous quarter, dropping to $1.468 billion.

Expenses increased at a faster clip, 4%, climbing to $2.4 billion. The fastest growing cost was benefits, claims and settlement expenses, which rose 18% to reach $533 million.

Earnings-per-diluted share rose to $2.08 from $2.01. This also missed analysts' expectations of $2.32 per share.

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