Sept. 28--Danny Ludeman, head of Wells Fargo Advisors, says he's quitting one of the most powerful posts in corporate St. Louis to spend the rest of his life doing good.
"I have this strong calling to spend hopefully the next 30 years or so helping other people 100 percent of the time," said Ludeman, 56.
He'll officially retire Jan. 1, to be replaced by Mary Mack, a top Wells Fargo Advisors executive. Ludeman says he hand-picked her for the post.
Ludeman is surrendering command of the third-largest brokerage in the country, with 15,000 brokers managing more than $1 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo has about 6,000 workers in St. Louis area, the vast majority downtown at its Jefferson Avenue brokerage headquarters.
In an interview, Ludeman said he'd been contemplating the move for a long time but had waited until he had the right management team in place.
"I've been blessed in so many ways," he said. "It's my turn now to be as selfless as I can."
The CEO said he might try to become director of a nonprofit organization.
He might take night classes at a Baptist seminary, perhaps with a counseling role in mind.
A resident of Ladue, Ludeman said he might run for political office if he thought he could improve education or "basic human services."
He acknowleged that his decision was unusual for a CEO in his 50s.
"Some people hang on for too long because of maybe ego or because they don't have other callings," Ludeman said. "My role as CEO does not define who I am."
He is a "moderate" Republican, according to a company spokeswoman. He has contributed recently to the campaigns of Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin, both Republicans.
Ludeman said he would stay in St. Louis and keep his role as chairman of the St. Louis Regional Chamber as well as co-chairman of the capital campaign for CityArchRiver 2015, the project to renovate the Gateway Arch grounds.
In those roles, he's emerged as a salesman for St. Louis. Last year, he teamed with competitor Jim Weddle, managing partner of Des Peres-based Edward Jones, in an effort to lure a New York financial firm that was considering moving part of its operation out of New York.
Wachovia, a large North Carolina-based bank, bought A.G. Edwards in 2007, removing a 120-year-old name from the St. Louis corporate pantheon. Ludeman, head of Wachovia's securities operation, took charge of both.
The bank placed the combined headquarters of its brokerage arm in St. Louis and began integrating the operation. As that was under way, Wachovia fell on hard times during the financial crisis and was swallowed up by Wells Fargo & Co.
"The integration of A.G. Edwards and Wachovia was apparently handed flawlessly," said Michael Flanagan, an independent brokerage industry analyst in Philadelphia. It remains a "very formidable player," he said.
The company added 1,500 jobs during his tenure, Ludeman said.
Ludeman drew praise Friday from a rival, Ron Kruszewski , CEO at St. Louis-based Stifel Financial. Their brokerage firms had clashed in court over allegations that Stifel was swiping away Wells Fargo's brokers.
"He is a tough competitor, but a class act," Kruszewski said. "The industry is losing a great leader."
Ludeman came up within the brokerage industry. By contrast, Mary Mack spent most of her career in banking. The difference has meaning to some in the industry, where the conservative culture of banking can sometimes clash with the more swashbuckling attitude in the stock and bond business.
Her appointment "signals the direction the bank would prefer," analyst Flanagan said. That direction is "retail and conservative, much in the mold of A.G. Edwards," he said.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton said there will be no change in direction. "This appointment doesn't signal anything except that Danny was ready to retire and Mary was the best person to step into the role," she said.
Mack joined First Union Bank in 1984 and held a variety of executive jobs at the North Carolina bank and at Wachovia, which bought First Union. Wells Fargo says she has 10 years in the brokerage business.
She now runs the Financial Services Group, where she oversees investment products, advisory services, sales and other functions.
"There are very few people whose perspective I find more valuable," Ludeman said. "We've been grooming Mary."
Mack lives in Charlotte, N.C., but will move to St. Louis, Ludeman said. The company said she was not available for an interview Friday.
Ludeman said Wells Fargo Advisors faced two big tasks -- finding new affluent clients and handling tougher regulation. The cost of that regulation is likely to set off another round of mergers as small brokerages try to cope with the increased cost.