Lending giant Wells Fargo reported record earnings in the third quarter this year, posting sales and profits large enough to offset the modest year-over-year losses in its wealth management segment.

Net earnings at the consumer lending leader vaulted to $4.1 billion in the quarter, a 21% increase over the same period last year.

But that growth came amid tepid results in Wells Fargo's wealth, brokerage and management segment, where total revenue for the quarter checked in at $2.89 billion, down from $3.09 billion in the year-earlier period.

"The economic recovery has been more sluggish and uneven than anyone anticipated," Chairman and CEO John Stumpf said in a statement. "We can't change the economic environment, yet we have worked hard to control the variables we can."

"I understand some of the angst and the anger," he told analysts on a conference call. "This downturn has been too long," he continued. "People are hurting. I get that."

The quarter was something of a mixed bag for Wells Fargo, which notched net interest income of $10.5 billion, down slightly from the $10.7 billion posted in the previous sequential quarter. The firm noted that the modest decline was offset in part by gains in the investment portfolio, commercial loans, and reductions in deposit and debt costs.

Though Wells Fargo does not provide individual figures for wealth management, brokerage and retirement lines of business, profit in that aggregated segment slipped 13% to $291 million from the previous quarter. While total revenue for the group slipped sequentially by some $199 million, the year-over-year gross tally for the period ticked up by $25 million.

In the wealth management segment, Wells Fargo said that its average deposit balances increased 3% from the previous year, while revenue from assets in the investment and fiduciary services segments increased 9%.

Average balances in Wells Fargo's retail brokerage notched a 14% gain over the prior year, increasing by $11 billion. Client assets, meanwhile, slipped 3% to $1.1 trillion, while net flows helped propel the managed client assets portfolio to $20 billion, up 9% from the prior year.

Retirement saw a similarly mixed performance, with institutional plan assets up $7 billion, or 3%, from the year-earlier period, while IRA assets dipped 2% to $261 billion, down $5 billion from the previous year.

Shares of Wells Fargo were down 1.5% in early trading on Monday.