Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Ameriprise Financial Inc (NYSE:AMP)
Q4 2019 Earnings Call
Jan 30, 2020, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2019 Earnings Call. My name is Sylvia and I'll be your operator for today's call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the call over to Alicia Charity.

Alicia, you may begin.

Alicia Charity -- Senior Vice President-Investor Relations

Thank you, operator and good morning, welcome to Ameriprise Financial's Fourth quarter earnings call. On the call with me today are Jim Cracchiolo, Chairman and CEO, and Walter Berman, Chief Financial Officer. Following their remarks, we'd be happy to take your questions. Turning to our earnings presentation materials that are available on our website. On slide two, you will see a discussion of forward-looking statements. Specifically, during the call, you will hear references to various non-GAAP financial measures, which we believe provide insight into the company's operations.

Reconciliation of non-GAAP numbers to their respective GAAP numbers can be found in today's materials. Some statements that we make on this call may be forward-looking, reflecting management's expectations about future events and overall operating plans and performance. These forward-looking statements speak only as of today's date, and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. A sample list of factors and risks that could cause actual results to be materially different from forward-looking statements can be found in our fourth quarter 2019 earnings release, our 2018 Annual Report to shareholders, our 2018 10-K report. We make no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements.

On slide three, you see our GAAP financial results at the top of the page for the fourth quarter. Below that, you see our adjusted operating results, which management believes enhances the understanding of our business by reflecting the underlying performance of our core operations, and facilitates a more meaningful trend analysis.

Many of the comments that management makes on the call today will focus on adjusted operating results. Additionally, we are providing an annual update to our long-term care disclosures as an appendix to the slides posted on our website today.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Jim.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning and thanks for joining us. Ameriprise delivered an excellent fourth quarter completing a very good year. As many of you know, we held our Investor Day in November to give you an even deeper understanding of our go-to-market strategies and long-term growth plans. I want to thank everyone who attended. We enjoyed our conversation with you. Regarding our growth strategy as we discussed, there are four key areas, driving our momentum.

First, we have a significant opportunity to build on our strong position and further grow as a wealth management leader with deep client relationships. Second, we're transforming our global asset management business to meet the important needs for active management. Third, we're managing well developed insurance and annuity books of business that generate significant consistent free cash flow, and finally Ameriprise is delivering profitable growth, has a sound balance sheet and is generating a high return for shareholders.

On our call today, I'll discuss our results. The operating environment and our progress executing the growth drivers we've outlined at Investor Day. Turning to the markets US equities reached yet another record high and our average weighted equity index that reflects the mix of assets we manage finished up strongly for the year.

As you know, the Fed interest rate cuts in 2019, are a headwind and yesterday, the Fed said that interest rates remain unchanged. As January comes to a close, equity markets remain strong but with a pick up in volatility. We cannot predict the year or market cycles but with deep client relationships, good cash flows and a strong balance sheet, Ameriprise is built to manage these cycles and emerge stronger.

Now, let's discuss the quarter. On a consolidated level, fourth quarter results were quite good compared to a year ago. On an adjusted operating basis, we delivered revenue growth of 6% excluding Auto and Home revenue in the year ago period. Solid EPS growth, up 11% even after absorbing some additional expenses in corporate; a return on equity of 38.6% ex-AOCI and unlocking which remains well above many peers, and with the sale of the Auto and Home business we generated $161 million in net benefit on a full-year GAAP pre-tax basis.

Our assets under management and administration reached a new high, up 18% to $973 billion. We also achieved new records in Wealth Management for retail client assets and advisor productivity that I'll discuss further. With that, let's now turn to our growth engine Advice & Wealth Management. We delivered solid revenue and earnings growth in the fourth quarter, even with significant decline in short-term interest rates. Margin in AWM was nearly 23% and continues to be among the best in Wealth Management.

I am pleased with how we're executing our priorities. We're growing our client base, serving more affluent investors and deepening client relationships, it all starts with the large and compelling market that we're concentrating on, responsible investors with $500,000 to $5 million in investable assets. They are looking for a comprehensive advice and strong digital capabilities from an advisor and a firm that they trust. Ameriprise is uniquely positioned to serve this market and it's translating into terrific results.

We had an excellent year in Advice & Wealth Management, including some nice fourth quarter highlights. Client assets were up 19%, while fee-based advisory business continues to stand out with more than $4 billion of inflows into advisory in the quarter. This brings total wrap assets to $318 billion, a 26% increase. Importantly, we had strong client acquisition results in the quarter, particularly in our affluent target market, and we saw a good pick-up in transactional activity as more clients engaged with us in financial planning relationships.

And in the quarter, advisor productivity increased 6% as advisors leveraged the extensive support we offer to help them grow. In recruiting, we had another good year. We continue to attract experienced advisors from across the industry. In addition, another 63 advisors joined us -- and it's one of the best quarters for recruiting large production practices. What's behind our continued success? The deep long-lasting relationships we work diligently and earn with clients, and we're using our goal-based advice expertise, and our enhanced client experience to deepen these relationships even further.

We're also leveraging our recent investments to drive future growth. Here are some updates. We continue to increase uptake of our digitally enabled advice experience to even more clients. We completed the roll out of our custom advisory relationship program. We finished the conversion of our new customer relationship management platform, and we're growing the Ameriprise Bank. We brought more than $1 billion of cash sweep balances on the balance sheet in the fourth quarter, bringing our full-year total to close to $4 billion, and we will continue to bring sweep deposits on the balance sheet.

This year, we will be adding additional capabilities, including a mortgage program, pledged loans and a savings deposit product. I also like to point out that outside of the bank, Ameriprise Wealth management expenses will come back to more normalized levels in 2020. We also continue to receive important recognition in the industry. Ameriprise was recently certified by JD Power for providing an outstanding customer service experience. Our teams work hard to deliver industry-leading service, so this means a lot.

I'll leave you with this takeaway. With our advice value proposition and the investments we've made, we have a great opportunity to continue to grow in the wealth management business. I'm energized by the opportunity we have in front of us. Now, I will turn to our I&A businesses. These are strong books that provide earnings diversification and stability. We're focused on delivering insurance and annuity solutions that satisfy client needs, while continuing to evolve our solution mix.

In the quarter, we generated $185 million in adjusted operating earnings for the protection annuity businesses, in line with our expectations. And we continue to generate strong free cash flow. In terms of annuity sales, total variable annuity cash sales were up, when compared to a slower quarter last year, and for the year, sales were in our typical range of about $4 billion.

This month, we launched our structured solutions annuity product designed exclusively to meet the needs of Ameriprise clients. We expect this will help shift even more of our books away from products with guarantees. Fixed annuity sales were down year-over-year in line with our plan. In protection, we focused on continuing to shift from IUL to VUL where we had a very strong growth in VUL sales compared to last year.

Overall, life insurance in force remained stable at $195 billion. As always, we're focused on managing risk appropriately, and ensuring we have the right product designs for our clients and the environment. We will also continue to evaluate further action regarding reinsuring the remaining fixed annuity block this year. Moving to Asset Management, earnings was strong and flows continued to improve.

We remain focused on serving client needs and pursuing long-term growth opportunities in key areas. Columbia Threadneedle ended the quarter with $494 billion in assets under management, up 15% on improving flows and positive markets and the earnings contribution to Ameriprise remain good. We're making good progress, executing our strategy and you can see that in our flow picture. We generated $3.3 billion in net inflows in the quarter, which was up $8 billion from last year.

This is our third consecutive quarter of improved flows. Investment performance was excellent in 2019 across equities, fixed income and asset allocation portfolios. On an asset-weighted basis for our Columbia funds, over 75% are above medium for one-year, three-year and five-year time frames. For Threadneedle funds, over 80% of beating their benchmarks for those same time periods, and we're seeing improved results across strategies and regions with global retail leading the way.

In US retail, we have been increasing our market share at six of our top eight broker-dealer partner firms, and gross sales in our key strategies are good. Our equity flow rate in the quarter was strong. In fact, of the 17 active firms we benchmark, we were in the top five and one of the few that were a net positive for the quarter. And in fixed income, we continue to garner good flows and we feel that we can improve even further. We're seeing a particular strength in our income franchise.

For example, our dividend income, strategic income and mortgage opportunity funds generated more than $2.2 billion in combined net inflows in the quarter. In EMEA retail, with Brexit now moving forward and reduced uncertainty in the UK, sentiment in Europe has improved. Net flows improved by more than $2 billion from last year. We're making good progress. In fact, we were in net inflows in nearly all of our key markets in Europe, now that we have built out our SICAV product range. And in global institutional, net inflows improved by more than $2 billion ex-parent to a net outflow of $1 billion.

We're gaining traction in a number of areas that we talked to you about in November. It was another good quarter in Asset Management. We have a strong product line up, excellent performance and global reach and we're focused on executing well to maintain our momentum. Now, let me turn to our final key area of focus; our capital strength, which is outstanding.

Last quarter, I highlighted our strong excess capital position and the benefits of the successful sale of the Auto and Home business in terms of freeing up capital and focusing our efforts on our core businesses. Ultimately, we ended the year at $2.2 billion of excess capital. In the fourth quarter, as a continuation of our strong return of capital, we returned 125% of operating earnings through the pick-up and the pace of our buyback, and for the year, we reduced our overall share count by 8%.

To summarize, it was an excellent quarter and year for Ameriprise. We are in a strong position. Later this year, we'll mark our 15th anniversary as an independent publicly traded company. We're incredibly proud of what we've accomplished. Importantly, we're proud of how we're recognized for our client service, our records of outperformance and how we consistently deliver for shareholders. We're poised and energized to build on our record of performance and growth.

Now, Walter will discuss the financials in detail, and then we'll take your questions. Walter?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you Jim, Ameriprise delivered another strong quarter of financial results and business metrics with adjusted operating EPS up 11% to $4.20. This was supported by a strong 6% revenue growth, excluding the Auto and Home business that we sold in the quarter. The quality of earnings across our businesses was quite strong. However, within the corporate segment there were a few timing related expense items that I'd like to explain. First, we incurred higher than normal impairments in our low-income housing portfolio, totaling $25 million. The portfolio continues to perform well, and we do not anticipate any impact to our going-forward expected tax benefits.

Second, as part of our reengineering process and evaluation of our overall expense base, going into 2020, we took an elevated level of severance charges in the quarter of $11 million. This action, positions us well moving into 2020. Finally, we had significant share price appreciation in the quarter, which required us to mark to market, some of the previously issued share-based compensation awards. This was a $6 million absolute impact in the quarter, but an $18 million variance year-over-year.

Going forward, we expect our corporate segment losses to return to the $70 million range. On October 1st, we closed the sale of Auto and Home to American Family. The transaction generated a net benefit of $161 million over the course of the year, but is not recognized within our operating results. We returned 125% of earnings to shareholders in the quarter, and 110% for the year based upon the sale of Auto and Home and the changes in our risk profile.

We enter 2020 with strong balance sheet fundamentals, with $2.2 billion in excess capital and a lower risk profile. With long-term care continuing to perform well, which you can see in the appendix, in 2020, we will evaluate reducing leverage while remaining committed to return capital at a pace of 100% plus.

Let's turn to page six. As I mentioned, adjusted operating net revenue was up 6% to $3 billion after excluding Auto and Home from the prior year period. Revenue growth was driven by Advice & Wealth Management and Asset Management. In Advice & Wealth Management we had a substantial increase in wrap assets and improved transactional activity, driving an 8% increase in revenue. In Asset Management, revenues grew 9% including strong performance fees, annuities and protection revenue was essentially flat.

In summary, we delivered strong EPS growth of 11% and a return on equity of nearly 39%. Turning to slide seven, you can see that our business mix continues to evolve with Advice & Wealth Management, generating over half of the company's earnings, up from 33%, five years ago. This profitability improvement has been driven by fundamental organic growth and well managed expenses, while still investing for future growth.

We've seen a consistent shift in our business mix over the past few years and expect this to continue as we -- investments in areas of opportunity within Wealth Management business. Advice & Wealth Management continues to perform well across leading and lagging indicators as you can see on slide eight. Advice & Wealth Management, adjusted operating net revenues grew 8%.

Wrap assets were up 26% to $318 billion, with net inflows of $4.4 billion in the quarter. Transactional activity also increased 5% year-over-year. We had a good quarter for experienced advisor recruiting with 63 advisors joining us from other firms in the quarter, with much higher trailing 12 month productivity and market levels improved nicely.

Pretax adjusted operating earnings were up 5% or $19 million in the face of a $22 million headwind related to recent Fed rate cuts. A strong increase in revenue allowed us to continue to drive profitable growth despite short-term interest rates. G&A increased 6% excluding the bank, consistent with expectations. We are continuing to make substantial investments for growth and seeing elevated volume related expenses, given strong activity levels.

Our expectation is that G&A growth, excluding the bank will be in the range of 3% to 4%. Finally, our margin was solid at 22.6% and we expect we can maintain it in this range. Let's turn to asset management on page nine. In the quarter, we saw a substantial $8 billion improvement with net inflows of $3.3 billion. Excluding former parent related flows, net inflows were $4.2 billion, benefiting from continued improvement in retail, in North America and Europe as well as from reinvested dividends. From a financial perspective, the business is demonstrating an improved trajectory. Asset Management continues to generate substantial revenue and pre-tax adjusted operating earnings for Ameriprise.

Pretax adjusted operating revenue was up 9% to $770 million, driven by strong performance fees and market appreciation with lower pressure from the cumulative impact of flows. Underlying expenses remain well managed. Within the quarter, expenses were impacted by elevated performance fee and year-end timing related compensation adjustments, as well as a higher distribution expense associated with revenue growth.

Margins in the quarter were 36% remaining in our target range of 35% to 39%. Turning to page 10 results in annuities and protection are solid. Annuities continue to perform in line with expectations, with very consistent profitability. We saw good improvement in variable annuity sales of 9% in the quarter, though still down for the full year.

We have launched a new structured variable annuity product in the first quarter, that will further diversify our offering away from living benefit features and our variable annuity net amount of risk, still remains one of the lowest in the industry. Protection earnings were down slightly to $65 million, claims remain in line with expectations.

Now, let's move to balance sheet on slide 11. We accelerated the pace of capital return to shareholders in 2019 with $2.4 billion returned via buybacks and dividends. This is a continuation of our long-standing track record of capital return. In fact, over the past 10 years, we have returned over $18 billion to shareholders and reduced our diluted share count by approximately 50%.

We continue to generate substantial free cash flow, which along with excellent balance sheet fundamentals will support continued capital return. We enter 2020 from a position of strength with $2.2 billion of excess capital. We remain committed to returning capital to shareholders, assessing potential changes to our capital structure to best support our current business mix and evaluating additional reinsurance opportunities.

With that, we will take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

 

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] And our first question comes from Andrew Kligerman from Credit Suisse.

Andrew Kligerman -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hey good morning. So, I'm looking at the advisor count and here at 98.71 [Phonetic]. It's roughly flattish with the last year's number. Could you talk a little bit about your ability to grow that count going into 2020 and the productivity of those advisors? I know revenue per advisor was up 6% year-over-year, a lot of moving parts there. So, how do you see that evolving in 2020 as well?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, we think that the advisor count would probably pick up a bit as we go forward. We actually netted out a number of advisors in the IPI area and others as we reform, then restructured that channel as well as in some of the central sites as we shifted things around. But, we actually feel good about the recruitment. We're actually focused a bit more on higher productivity. And so the average productivity of the people who are leaving us was still much lower. So, we focus mainly on the growth of that productivity and the type of people we're bringing in.

But, I think the advisor count should probably pick up a bit more like we were doing more at the beginning part of the year and I feel good about the type of productivity we're bringing in and the recruitment then, and the ramping up of the people who are here.

Andrew Kligerman -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Got it. And staying on Advice & Wealth, fee rates they were around 108 basis points by our calculation in the quarter, and that's kind of versus the recent 109 basis point to 111 basis point range over the last two years or so. And, so I don't know is that a function of moving up market and how do you -- why is that, and where do you see the fees kind of shaking out in 2020 and 2021?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, I think it's part of the idea of us continuing now to bring in more clients at a little higher levels, where then the rates get a bit lower as the asset levels managing are a bit higher. And so, that's actually -- it's a good positive thing for us. I mean, our net inflow of client activity is pretty strong, continues to be good and consistent, and we are bringing in more clients and the more affluent and we're probably going to embark on something this year to even focus a bit more even on the higher net worth channels. So, I think that's a favorable for us.

Andrew Kligerman -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Got it. And then one last quick one; 110% payout ratio -- 110% in 2019, $2.2 billion of excess capital. Could you get that ratio even higher in 2020?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

We could, but the issue is I think, as Jim said, at the Investor Day we're targeting at this stage 100% plus, but we are certainly monitoring that and evaluating it Andrew, as we do. But certainly we have the generation capacity and we will be evaluating that as we move forward.

Andrew Kligerman -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thanks a lot.

Operator

Our next question comes from Humphrey Lee from Dowling & Partners.

Humphrey Lee -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Good morning and thank you for taking my questions. A question with regard to the G&A expenses. I think in Jim and Walter's prepared remarks, you talked about expenses should normalize in 2020, and I think specifically in A&WM, the G&A expenses, excluding the bank would be kind of 3% to 5% growth. But I guess, when we look at the overall enterprise, how should we think about the expenses in general, and then also how much of a banking related expense do you anticipate for A&WM?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. So, I think as we indicated. Yes, I think what you said for AWM, the expense range after normalizing for the bank is it will be in the 3% to 5% range. As it relates to AMP, it is lower than that and normally will be in the range of 2% that range. So, we anticipate that will continue as we look, but as we evaluate it, but that is what is a reasonably good expectation.

Humphrey Lee -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Okay. So, including the bank or overall AMP G&A expenses would be in the 2% range, is that what you're suggesting?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

No. The bank will be above that because we normalize for it. At the AWM level, it's about 200 basis points, if you add for the bank. So, I think it’s ought to be a little less for AMP, because the AMP size of the expense base will be neutralized, but it gives a little less impact. But, that is basically from that standpoint of normalized number.

Humphrey Lee -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Okay, got it. And then in -- again, in your prepared remarks you talked about the fixed annuity block. It doesn't look like the lower interest rate right now affects how you think about the block in terms of potential transactions. Is that a fair statement? And then also, can you remind us how much statutory capital that you have right now backing that business?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. So listen, the interest rates do affect it, but we do believe there is a -- we are evaluating that there is potential viability and certainly pursuing a fixed annuity reinsurance, and we are in discussions and we evaluate that. This is a general range, it's probably around an area of $750 million to $800 million that we can free up.

Humphrey Lee -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you.

Operator

Our following question comes from Kenneth Lee from RBC Capital Markets.

Kenneth Lee -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my question. Just one within the Asset Management business, a follow-up on the prepared remarks, you touched upon seeing improving investor sentiment within the UK/EMEA region due to the Brexit clarity. I'm wondering whether you would expect to see further improvement in net fund flows of this year due to the increase in clarity, and perhaps you could just tell us, which products -- investment products you could see potentially gaining from this improving sentiment. Thanks.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. So, I think you're more explicitly asking about UK and Europe, our EMEA business. Yes, we saw a nice improvement bounce back occurring in the fourth quarter, moving from some negative in the first month of the quarter to actually inflows in the second and third month of the quarter and we see that continuing. Europe was actually positive for us, good. UK was still coming back, but it was still a bit weaker, but we feel like that will start to change in remedy now that they have gone through the elections at the end of the year. So, we're reasonably optimistic that there will be a little less uncertainty. I mean, there is still uncertainty to the extent of what is that trade agreement and things at the end of the year, but the people in London are feeling better, and feel like the business can come back there and the appetite would increase.

And, we have a good line-up, I mean we have excellent performance in our funds. Our UK equity type products are really good. We've gained even in a negative year flows there, and we now have a full line of products in the SICAV range in Europe and that bodes well for us, as there is a pick up, and we're seeing that pick up in things like European equities and various things like that. So, we are positive on that to be an improvement this year.

Kenneth Lee -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great, and just one follow-up if I may. Looking at the former parent company related outflows, looking back over the past year or so, net outflows related to that have been declining. Just wondering whether we would expect a similar kind of trajectory going forward or just wanted to get your thoughts there. Thanks.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So, I think we've seen some improvement in the domestic part of that and the outflow from our relationship here. The Zurich activity has been pretty consistent, once in a while they'll have a pension that closes and there is some lumpiness, but it's pretty much been running like what we've seen from quarter-to-quarter just based on the drawdown of these closed books and assets. But as I said, the assets that remain there due to a combination of appreciation and even some difference in some of the products that we replace, that have a bit higher fee, the revenue gets offset even though that flow negative in that, that book is there.

So, but I would probably say I, it's been running that way consistently for a while so I don't see much change there from a flow, but the revenue has been pretty stable.

Kenneth Lee -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Very helpful, thank you very much.

Operator

Our following question comes from John Barnidge from Piper Sandler.

John Barnidge -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Thanks. Deposit volume in 4Q 2019 for VA's was the highest since 2Q 2018. Thought it was somewhat surprising given the decline in rates during the year and associated repricing activity. Can you talk about your positioning in the distribution environment there? Thank you.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yes, we did see a bit more of a pick up. I mean, a year ago this quarter it was a slower period for us, but we saw a bit more activity towards the end of the year. We actually just in the end of this month, we just launched our structured annuity product, and we actually think that would pick up some traction as well in the current year and shift some of the business from the guarantee product. I mean, we still sell a reasonable portion of annuities without living benefits as well, which is good.

So, we're not looking for a substantial growth, but we're looking for probably a bit more growth, but also a shift to now some of the structured product as well, which is good for us. So we want to keep that book growing or stable with slight growth, which is good and the mix improving. So, that's what we're probably seeing right now.

John Barnidge -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Great. And my follow up, does Brexit clarity change your view around M&A for asset management, as I believe the fee rate for retail is a bit higher in EMEA than in the US.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we want to continue to grow in EMEA and Europe to the point you referenced, based on fee rates and the use of actives as well. So, we keep our eye out for opportunities, but we actually feel like some of the investments we're making and the expansion of resources that we're putting on the continent, gives us some opportunity for further growth there as well.

John Barnidge -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Thanks for the answer.

Operator

Our following question comes from Tom Gallagher from Evercore.

Thomas Gallagher -- Evercore -- Analyst

Good morning. Just a question on the AWM growth. Just looking at page 13 of the supplement, it looks like total client AUM versus the wrap accounts is growing a bit slower. Just curious if, are you seeing outflows in the non-wrap business? And overall, how is that impacting your growth in that business and just overall economics?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, looking at the client flows, they're still pretty -- very good. So, they're in excess of the $4 billion. I don't know exactly with the ins and outs, there is some ins and outs, but a shift between the non-wrap to wrap has slowed a lot. I mean, it's sort of leveled out. I can't tell you -- like from period-to-period it might be slight. But, the net of the effect of what those flows are our gross client net client inflows in total. So, it's within that realm. I would probably say with the fourth quarter, which is the markets being where they were, I'd probably think activity would slow it a little more for investment purposes, just because people were waiting for the next shoe to drop. But I think it's been pretty stable.

Thomas Gallagher -- Evercore -- Analyst

So Jim, just following up on that, would you say overall flows into the complex, from a total client assets would be close to the $4 billion mark?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

It's north of $4 billion, but in that range in the fourth quarter.

Thomas Gallagher -- Evercore -- Analyst

Okay, that's helpful. And then, how should we think about total capital return? I mean, I know you've returned more than the 90% certainly last year, you're sitting on substantial excess as we stand today. How are you thinking about utilization of the excess? Are you thinking more strategic M&A, or are there opportunities out there and then maybe doing more buybacks, if nothing, if you don't find anything like where are you leaning now more toward with deployment of that excess, particularly after the P&C capital freed significant amount up?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, as you saw we did pick up the buyback. As we said -- Walter, just mentioned that we're probably looking to continue, we usually say 90 to 100, we're saying probably 100 plus at this point in time, not knowing the world and the -- etc. But, if things present good opportunities for additional, we do that, but we constantly monitor the cash flow, continues to be quite good and strong. As Walter also said, we're probably looking to reinsure some more as we go through the year. So, I think buyback still would be probably the main return mechanism. We will look presenting to the Board about a dividend increase again this year, consistent with all the years that we've done that. And you know, we always look at some M&A strategically to fit in, but that depends on opportunities that may come along or not, but we have enough capital flexibility that, that should not affect our buyback trajectory.

Thomas Gallagher -- Evercore -- Analyst

Okay, thanks.

Operator

Our following question comes from Suneet Kamath from Citi.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning. I just wanted to start with the A&WM margin. So, if the Fed is on hold now, is the impact of the -- what they did last year in terms of rate cut sort of fully baked into the 22.6% margin?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes, basically, it is a small deviation, but basically it is.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

And then, at Investor Day, I mean I don't want to nitpick here, but you talked about a 20% plus margin in A&WM, on this call you're saying you can maintain at 22.6%. Is there sort of a change in how you're thinking about that margin, relative to what you told us at Investor Day?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

No, not at all.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

And then the last one I had is on the bank. I think we have a good sense of what the expenses are, but can you give us a sense of what the bank revenues are and how you expect that to progress as we move through 2020?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, as we indicated, we had a small profit in 2019 and we do expect with the launches of different products and adding more of transfer sweep money over, the revenues will grow. Obviously, this is a challenging market for investment. But, on that base, we do see the revenues growing and also increasing our profitability in 2020.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

Do you have a sense of the revenue base though, right now from the bank?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Let me -- I don't want to guess that, so let us get back to you on it, I'll get it too.

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

All right, thanks Walter.

Operator

Our following question comes from Erik Bass from Autonomous Research.

Erik Bass -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Hi, thank you. A couple of follow-ups on Advice & Wealth, sort of along the same line as Suneet's questions. I guess first, would you expect cash yields to be pretty stable going forward if the Fed remains on hold or are there any competitive dynamics that could create some noise there?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

No, I don't believe that we see any -- I mean, obviously, we are constantly monitoring and measuring. But no, we don't see any of this at this time.

Erik Bass -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Got it. And then, Morgan Stanley recently provided a target of getting its Wealth Management business margins to the 28% to 30% range over the next two years, and I realize there are differences between its business and yours. But, do you see getting to kind of a mid 20% margin is something that may be achievable over the intermediate term, as the bank reaches scale and if you continue to improve advisor productivity levels?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I would say this. I mean one of the things very clearly as you have sort of compressed rates out there with what the Fed recently did versus some of the banks that might have been started previously, were based on their investments and other things like the wirehouses with their banking entities and the use of that. But, I would actually say if you get a bit better in some of the yield curve or some pick up a little better on some of the longer rates, not substantially, I think you can see what we're shifting into the bank, with the development going through the bank that, that could be adding to margins, even if the Fed maintained rates right now, so to speak, depending on what happens in the larger climate, but we're ramping up the bank in a period when those things are pretty compressed. But, we feel good about it because it gives us the opportunity, if things normalize a little better again.

Erik Bass -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Okay, thank you. And is there a correlation between productivity and margin or does productivity just help drive revenues, but kind of your payout stay the same and it's sort of margin neutral?

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

The productivity over the years have definitely -- I mean, you can see our margins have grown up pretty -- pretty tremendously. We do still have sort of an independent and an employee base. The employee margins have increased nicely, our independents are quite good. And so, we have added to margin, based upon the productivity increase and the business growth, and I don't see that changing substantially.

I think, what we're just managing is you had spurts in markets and other things. So, we're just averaging that out right now, but as Walter said our expense growth should come down a bit, outside of the bank back to more normalized levels. So we feel good about maintaining and improving that margin over time.

But again, things are with the environment, you can't always predict that and what the impact may be in the short term.

Erik Bass -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Certainly. And thank you for the comments.

Operator

And the last question comes from Alex Blostein from Goldman Sachs.

Alex Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Hey guys, thanks for taking a couple of questions here. I have a few on AWM mostly. So, I guess first, Walter, is it possible for you to give us a sense how much in net interest income, you expect to generate at the bank in 2020 and sort of what that contemplates. In other words, are there more deposits, you're going to move from sweep or whatever you move that's enough to kind of just put it into loans or other things you guys are doing at the bank, that's my first question.

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I guess, let me first -- since, we started the bank midyear, obviously we'll get the calendarization effect so that we will get the net interest margin increasing on that basis. We will be increasing, certainly as I indicated, the sweep flows into the bank so that, well, but again, as Jim has -- in this market, the rates are fairly constricted..

And we are certainly looking at launching and having a more emphasis on our privilege loan program and certainly on -- and getting into a deposit program.

Alex Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Okay. But no rough sense of in terms of the revenue dollars that you expect to get out of the bank this year?

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

No, not exactly that, again as Suneet asked, we'd have to, we're not forecasting, but certainly there will be an increase and again we are assuming an increase in profitability. But, I don't have the exact correlation.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

And Alex, we're forming as we've started to ramp up the bank, the shift in the sweep. Looking at the current environment and regarding both our lending and our investment strategy, the roll out of some of the products this year, we will be forming that and as that gets more informed, we will be chatting with you and informing you as well. So, we're just at the early stages of that, but all the groundwork, all the foundational elements, even the initial shift in, the launch of the credit card, the initial sweeps, etc. have taken place. So, we're right on track to our plans, but the second level of that will be forming as we go in through this year.

Alex Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Got it, thanks. And then in terms of the asset growth. So, at a high level, everything you guys are talking about sounds great, in terms of recruiting, higher productivity, etc. When we look at the wrap flows this year, they've decelerated versus last year, despite the fact that what feels like has been a very robust, environment for the industry, as well as some of your peers. So, what's been driving the decline in wrap accounts this year? What do you think is a reasonable, either dollar amount of organic growth, do you expect to get out of that over the next kind of 12 months to 24 months.

And then, when you look, I guess, at the fee rate on wrap accounts, that's also been coming down for the last couple of years. So, kind of help us reconcile all those three maybe? Thanks.

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we don't really see that what you're saying, per se. I know that the wrap account in previous year or two were a bit higher, but remember that was part of an industry shift. We were part of that moving with the DoL and activities and accelerating some of that transfer. But from an organic level, as I said a $4.4 billion is still pretty nicely organically growth, and we see that continuing. We feel like our fee rates are pretty good as you said, as we continue to move up market, some of the fees will be lower, naturally, based upon pricing. But no, I don't see it could move slightly from what we said, but I don't see a slowdown, per se.

Our client activity is good, but we do a lot more business than wrap, and so, importantly it's not just a wrap business per se, we try to do more comprehensive business, but I feel that that's not necessarily I see a slowing -- I see things go period to period, but I think over the longer term, we feel pretty good about it and we think that, that will continue and you know our wrap balances were up 26% year-over-year.

So, I'm not sure we're out of line in anything in the industry. There may be some further shift for some people where they were behind on it, and accelerating it, but we have always had a good strong wrap business.

Alex Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Got it. Great, thanks very much.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 48 minutes

Call participants:

Alicia Charity -- Senior Vice President-Investor Relations

James Cracchiolo -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Walter Berman -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Andrew Kligerman -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Humphrey Lee -- Dowling & Partners -- Analyst

Kenneth Lee -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

John Barnidge -- Piper Sandler -- Analyst

Thomas Gallagher -- Evercore -- Analyst

Suneet Kamath -- Citi -- Analyst

Erik Bass -- Autonomous Research -- Analyst

Alex Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

More AMP analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo