Wells Fargo Appoints ESOP Leader

Kim Abello has joined Wells Fargo & Company's North American commercial banking division to lead employee stock ownership program (ESOP) efforts nationwide.

Abello will lead a nationwide team of relationship managers that helps privately-owned businesses transition to ESOPs. Wells Fargo says Abello 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, just one year after ESOPs were made part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 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.

Abello says she anticipates more Wells Fargo middle-market business owners will take advantage of ESOPs as an exit or retirement strategy. The firm encourages ESOP use to give retiring business owners a means to perpetuate their business through a sale to the employees, and to provide liquidity and diversification for estates of business owners. ESOPs also provide employees with a personal stake in the long-term success of the business, Abello says.

“Kim and her team will serve as a valuable resource for more than 700 of our commercial bank relationship managers across the country,” explains MaryLou Barreiro, executive vice president and head of specialty lending for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking.

Abello has 20 years of experience in corporate finance, most recently managing ESOPs for the Midwest region at J.P. Morgan 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 earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and holds a master’s degree in taxation from DePaul University. Abello is a certified public accountant 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 vice president of membership for the Illinois Chapter of the ESOP Association.