Lazard reining in wealth management unit

Move is part of cost cutting, but adviser job cuts remain a question

By Andrew Osterland

Nov 18, 2012 @ 12:01 am (Updated 9:46 am) EST

Lazard Ltd. is folding its U.S. wealth management business into a larger unit as part of a cost-cutting initiative announced in the third quarter.

The decision comes just three years after the business was launched as a subsidiary.

“The wealth management business in the U.S. is becoming part of Lazard Asset Management,” Lazard spokeswoman Judi Mackey said.

Although the investment bank and advisory firm isn't closing the business, it is unclear if the move will result in job losses for financial advisers.

Lazard doesn't break out numbers for its U.S. wealth management business, but it is far smaller than the European business, which operates under the name Lazard Frères Gestion SAS.

Ms. Mackey provided no further details about the move.

Lazard is known primarily for its mergers-and- acquisitions advisory and investment banking operations. Still, the global asset management division had $160 billion in assets under management at the end of September.

Lazard started the U.S. private-wealth-management business in 2009, but it hasn't reported performance for the subsidiary separately from the asset management group.

It brought in Thaddeus Shelly, a former Bessemer Trust Co. NA executive, to lead the unit, but the firm has been quiet about recruiting, said Danny Sarch, president of recruiting firm Leitner Sarch Consultants Ltd.

“They have the wonderful name in investment banking, and everyone thought it would be great if they were in wealth management,” Mr. Sarch said. “But it seems they were just dabbling in the business rather than being committed to it.”

Lazard's senior leadership appears to have lost patience with the dabbling.

aosterland@investment news.com Twitter: @aoreport

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