By Jed Horowitz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Danny Ludeman, who has led Wells Fargo Advisors and a predecessor brokerage firm for almost 15 years, will retire as of January 1, 2014, the Wells Fargo & Co. brokerage unit said Friday.
Ludeman, 56, will be replaced as head of the U.S.'s third largest retail brokerage firm by Mary Mack, 50, another veteran brokerage official at the firm.
Ludeman has served as executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo Advisors since the Wachovia merger in 2008, the company said.
Mack, who will be the only woman to run a major brokerage firm, began her banking and brokerage career in 1984 at First Union Corp., another North Carolina bank that was folded into Wachovia.
For the past year, she has been president of a group that creates products for sale through the 15,000 financial advisers working at securities offices, bank branches and Wells's Financial Network group of independent brokers.
Before taking senior positions in wealth management, she was a managing director of healthcare corporate banking at First Union.
Ludeman's retirement at a relatively young age surprised some financial advisers, who said he had given no indication of his plans as recently as this week in personal and group meetings. Ludeman intends to remain in St. Louis, where Wells Fargo Advisors is based, rather than return to Richmond, Virginia, where he spent most of his career at Wachovia, a bank spokeswoman said.
Neither Ludeman, who has worked at Wells Fargo and its predecessor firms for 34 years, nor Mack were available to comment.
One adviser, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said Ludeman and his wife were profoundly influenced by their having lived for about a week on a budget of under $30 when he chaired a local United Way campaign a few years ago.
"He became much more passionate about family, openly talking at broker events and personally about the importance of it," the broker said. "It was much different than the traditional Virginia politesse."
In a news release, the bank said Ludeman's "dedication to the client will be missed," and emphasized the community and civic causes he has championed in St. Louis.
"Last year, he made some leadership changes that have helped him feel comfortable in making this decision to be able to spend more time helping people in the community," Wells Fargo spokeswoman Raschelle Burton wrote in an email.
An adviser expressed surprise that the top brokerage job was not passed to David Kowatch, a close ally of Ludeman who became head of Wells Fargo's sprawling branch brokerage system last October when Mack moved from running the branch banking brokerage network to the products job.
(Reporting by Jed Horowitz; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)