(Bloomberg) -- Wells Fargo's wealth- and investment-management business has the potential to earn multiples of what it brings in now, making it the largest growth opportunity for the world's biggest bank by market capitalization, CEO John Stumpf said.

The division earns about $2.5 billion in profit annually and could make "a number of factors times that," Stumpf said Tuesday at an investor conference in New York. The business boasts margins of more than 25%, he said.

"The biggest opportunity Wells Fargo has is in wealth and investment management," he said. "It's not like the business is not great, it just could be a whole lot bigger."

Wells Fargo reached an agreement in October with Credit Suisse to get the inside track on recruiting the firm's U.S.-based advisors. David Carroll, who runs Wells Fargo's wealth business from Charlotte, N.C., said at an investor conference last month that the firm had entertained 211 of Credit Suisse's roughly 270 advisers at its St. Louis brokerage headquarters. 


TARGET CLIENT

Wells Fargo is targeting customers who currently have their wealth managed by other firms, Stumpf said. While the San Francisco-based bank has about 11% of the operating deposits in the country, it only manages 1% to 2% of the wealth, he said.

The division contributed more than 10% to Wells Fargo's net income in the three months ended in September, up from roughly 8% two years earlier, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Wells Fargo's retail brokerage has about 15,000 financial advisers and $1.4 trillion in client assets, while the private bank has $179 billion in client assets and a unit catering to family offices has $40 billion, according to a November presentation.

Wells Fargo is looking to expand as other banks retreat. Deutsche Bank agreed to sell its U.S. private-client services unit to Raymond James Financial this month, while Barclays agreed in June to sell its U.S. wealth-management business to Stifel Financial.

Wells Fargo also is interested in buying a U.K. asset manager, and is considering several potential takeover targets, including Henderson Group and Jupiter Fund Management, the Sunday Times reported last month, without citing anyone.

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