Daily News: September 23, 2014

Wells Fargo Taps Abello to Head ESOP Unit

To meet growing demand for Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), Wells Fargo & Company announced Kim Abello joined Wells Fargo Bank, Commercial Banking Division to lead its ESOP efforts nationwide.

Abello has 20 years of experience in corporate finance, most recently managing ESOPs for the Midwest at JPMorgan Chase. Before that, Abello was a managing director at Duff & Phelps, a valuation and financial consulting firm, where she helped businesses with ownership transition options, including ESOPs.

Abello will lead a nationwide team of relationship managers specializing in ESOPs, and in partnership with advisors and experts in other Wells Fargo lines of business, her team will help privately owned businesses transition to an ESOP. This unique Wells Fargo partnership will provide ESOP expertise in many areas, including initial ESOP stock purchases, second-stage transaction financing, refinancing of seller notes, mergers and acquisitions, and expansion of business operations for ESOP companies.

In 1975, a year after ESOPs were made part of Congress’ Employee Retirement Income Security Act, there were approximately 1,500 ESOPs covering about 250,000 employees, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) reports. Today, there are approximately 8,900 ESOPs covering 13.5 million employees, the organization reported.

Wells Fargo currently serves five of the top 10 companies on NCEO’s list of America’s 100 largest majority employee-owned companies. Abello anticipates even more Wells Fargo middle market business owners will take advantage of ESOPs as an exit or retirement strategy.

“This is an exciting time to be involved in the ESOP business community and to work with an outstanding financial services company that serves more middle-market, privately-owned businesses than anyone else,” Abello said. “Wells Fargo has a strong, existing portfolio of companies with ESOPs, and we are continuing to enhance our efforts to provide guidance to middle-market customers on the many benefits of the ESOP strategy.”

Among their many benefits, ESOPs can give retiring Baby Boomers a means to perpetuate their business through a sale to the employees, as well as provide liquidity and diversification for estates of business owners, and may allow business owners to defer capital gains. ESOPs also provide employees with a personal stake in the long-term success of the business, Abello said.

Abello is a CPA and accredited senior business appraiser. She is a member of Employee Owned S Corporations of America, The ESOP Association, the National Center for Employee Ownership, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and serves as VP of membership for the Illinois Chapter of the ESOP Association.

In recent years, retiring Baby Boomer business owners have driven steady adoption of the tax-advantaged employee benefit plans, which were created by Congress 40 years ago to encourage the purchase of private company shares by its employees.

“Kim and her team will serve as a valuable resource for more than 700 of our Commercial Bank relationship managers across the country,” said MaryLou Barreiro, EVP and head of specialty lending for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking. “Her experience and leadership greatly enhances our ability to help ESOP companies and those companies looking at ESOP as a possible strategy.”