(Dow Jones) Ameriprise Financial Inc.'s (AMP) Advice and Wealth Management division reported a surge in pretax income to $51 million for the first quarter of 2010, compared to a pretax loss of $61 million a year ago.

"We had a solid quarter aided by equity market appreciation and improved client activity," said Ameriprise Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Cracchiolo in a statement.

"We generated positive retail client asset flows, driven by particular strength in our mutual fund wrap business, and we had good new client acquisition growth," he said, highlighting the 31% increase in client assets to $304 billion, and the profitability of its Advice and Wealth Management business.

The Advice and Wealth Management business accounts for almost 40% of the company's total revenues. The segment provides financial planning and advice through its affiliated financial advisors. The average broker at Ameriprise produces between $300,000 and $500,000 in fees and commissions and targets mass affluent clients, or investors with between $100,000 and $1 million in investable assets.

Its other businesses include its annuities, asset management, protection and corporate segments.

Ameriprise said it is also on track to complete its acquisition of Columbia Management, the stock and bond mutual fund business, from Bank of America Corp. (BAC) by May 1, 2010. The acquisition will make Ameriprise one of the biggest mutual fund managers in the U.S.

Unlike many of its peers, the Minneapolis-based regional brokerage actually lost financial advisors in the past year. To bulk up its advisory force, the firm acquired 1,000 advisors from H&R Block Inc. (HRB) in 2008 and about 550 brokers during last year's market dislocation. However, total advisors declined by 5% year-over-year to 11,837, which the firm attributed to the "continuing departure of low-producing advisers" in its earnings statement.

The firm's brokerage force includes 2,302 advisors in its employee channel, 7,737 advisors in its independent franchise business and 1,906 advisors at Securities America, an independent broker-dealer. Adviser retention held steady in its employee channel but dropped slightly at the franchise level to 91.7%.

The company said it will continue to recruit experienced advisors, although at a slower rate than in 2009.

Ameriprise's operating net revenue for the first quarter was $2.1 billion, up 25% from a year earlier, mainly driven by growth in management fees from market appreciation on assets and asset inflows into wrap accounts, which increased to $100 billion.

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