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Wells Fargo eyes insurance brokerage acquisitions

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(Reuters) — Wells Fargo & Co. is restarting efforts to expand its insurance brokerage business through acquisitions after previously announced M&A aspirations did not pan out.

Laura Schupbach, executive vice president and head of Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc., said she "hit the pause button" on plans to do deals after she determined when taking the reins of the business four years ago that existing businesses were not fully integrated after earlier deals over a period of about 15 years.

Ms. Schupbach cited technology platforms and contracts with insurers as examples of inconsistencies that have now been addressed across the bank's 2,500-person insurance brokerage and consulting unit.

Having resolved those issues and "upgraded talent," Wells Fargo is again looking at M&A, Ms. Schupbach said in an interview.

"We're very interested in building out industry expertise," Ms. Schupbach said on Tuesday. She cited industries including health care, hospitals and agriculture as possible targets. In terms of size of a deal, she said Wells Fargo would prefer to target larger companies as they are "used to serving clients with more sophisticated needs."

On the low end, Ms. Schupbach said, "Could it be $20-50 million? Maybe." She declined to comment regarding the possible high end of the range and added that she can grow the business without acquisitions if necessary.

Wells Fargo told Reuters in August it is selling its crop insurance business, thought to be valued at $1 billion.

Elaborating on those plans, Ms. Schupbach said Wells Fargo targeted the business for sale because it does not provide as much opportunity as the bank's other insurance business lines to serve bank consumer and commercial customers.