Wells Fargo has set up a seven-person unit that the firm’s 15,000 advisors can contact to report suspected cases of elder abuse or dementia.

The unit, based in St. Louis, comes as calls from advisors to the home office about cognitive decline in senior clients and victimization of them by family, as well as Nigerian princes and other scamsters, tripled from 2010 to 2013 to around 90 calls a month.

Wells Fargo Advisors Elder Services Director Ron Long said the surge is probably the result of a combination of factors: more elderly clients, more money in their hands and a greater awareness by advisors in the field about the problems.

While the headquarters has heard of senior problems from the field for years, what is different now is that advisors can speak to a team of specialists rather than being put in contact with someone (often in the legal department) who handles a wide range of issues.

And, noted Long, “speaking” is the only way advisors will be able to reach the unit, which has been named Elder Client Initiatives.

He said a central e-mail address won’t be available out of fear it could delay responding to advisors for hours.

Elder Client Initiatives is forwarding cases of suspected senior abuse to local authorities even in states where reporting by Wells Fargo Advisors is not mandatory.

The initiatives team is composed of seven workers, most of whom who came from Wells’ legal section.

The group is hiring an elder client strategist responsible for making sure senior concerns are addressed in all of the company’s sections from marketing to new product development.
“We want to make sure every one of the 15,000 advisors in the field know that this team exists for them to report the first signs of elder financial abuse, dementia or diminished capacity,” said Long.

He said a second goal of the effort is to improve the elder client experience companywide.