Wells Fargo's quarterly profits for its wealth management unit soared 18% year-over-year, while the firm experienced a small drop in the advisor ranks.

Wells Fargo, the first of the wirehouses to report earnings this year, said that quarterly profits rose to $561 million from $475 million for the same period a year ago. At the same time, advisor headcount slipped to 15,134, a decline of 53 from the previous quarter.

First quarter revenues at the firm's Wealth, Brokerage and Retirement unit rose to $3.7 billion, up 7.3% from $3.5 billion. Expenses increased at a slower pace, rising to $2.8 billion, up about 4%.

Client assets rose to $1.7 trillion, up 4% year-over-year. Managed account assets rose at a quick pace, climbing 12% to reach $435 million.

At the end of the quarter, Wells Fargo also said that average net loans increased 14% year-over-year to $56.9 billion for the quarter. The firm attributed the unit's strong loan growth to increasing security-based lending.

COMPANYWIDE SLIP

Overall, Wells Fargo's net profits slipped 2% year-over-year, dropping to $5.8 billion for the first quarter from $5.89 billion for the year-ago period. The dip was partially due to rising expenses, which climbed 5% to $12.5 billion. Earnings-per-share also slipped for the quarter, dropping to $1.06 per share from $1.07 per share for the same period a year ago.

CEO John Stumpf said that the business continues to benefit from its diversified business model. "We continued to strengthen our customer relationships in the quarter, as reflected in strong growth in deposits and primary checking customers," he said.

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