Editor’s note: A version of this story also appears in the 2017 Wells Fargo Annual Report.
Alexandra Wilkinson’s lifelong dream was to ride in a gondola down the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, but she was doubtful she would ever be able to make her dream a reality.
That all changed when she walked into her local Wells Fargo branch in Palm Harbor, Florida, and talked to Personal Banker Nicole Allegretto.
Their chat didn’t begin about products or services or banking. Instead, they discussed life, including the relationship Wilkinson had recently ended and the reasons her travel dreams seemed out of reach.
“The initial conversation was what got the whole thing started, and what I try to do with all my customers: take the time to first listen and understand what’s important to them,” Allegretto said. “In Alex’s case, it was travel and why that was so important. The more I listened, the more I felt a part of her dream, too, and wanted her to be successful.”
Making a plan and sticking to it
As the two talked, they devised a plan to help bring Wilkinson’s dream to life. Step one: With Wilkinson’s initial $400, Allegretto set up a savings account as her travel fund. Step two: Grow the account.
As the owner of a social media promotion and management firm, Wilkinson worked harder than ever to land new accounts so she could contribute to her travel fund. She also rented her home in Oldsmar, Florida, and used the income to add even more to the fund.
In just two months, Wilkinson surpassed her $2,000 goal — a milestone she celebrated with Allegretto.
“Alex walked to my desk that morning with the biggest smile on her face, a bounce in her step, and the confirmation receipt for her purchased airline tickets in hand,” Allegretto said of the moment that she considers one of the peaks of her Wells Fargo career. “She told me she was finally going to Europe as tears of joy streamed down her face. I was, and am, so proud of her!”
‘Supporting the development of true and meaningful customer relationships’
Allegretto said sweeping changes Wells Fargo has made across its branches are making interactions like this between customers and team members possible. Streamlined processes give bankers more time to listen and talk to customers, empowering them to solve problems they once referred to call centers for resolution, reduce wait times, and improve overall customer service.
“If not for the way Wells Fargo is supporting the development of true and meaningful customer relationships,” Allegretto said, “I may have never had the opportunity to ask the questions that day that allowed me to be a part of this amazing dream.”
The ‘experience of a lifetime’
During her 53-day trip to Europe, Wilkinson visited 19 cities in France, Great Britain, and Italy. She participated in a work exchange program, where members provide childcare, cooking, and other services for room and board, which allowed her to reduce her number of hotel stays and make her travel money last even longer.
The gondola ride in Venice came early in her itinerary.
“Sitting in that gondola and riding through Venice on the Grand Canal was the dream, and something I’d waited my whole live to do,” Wilkinson said. “I started to cry a bit. That was it. I experienced that early on in my trip, so everything else after that was gravy.”
Wilkinson said the highlight of fulfilling her dream wasn’t the trip itself, but the discipline that made it possible.
“The most rewarding part of this whole journey Nicole and I went through together was as I was saving and before I reached my goal — going to the branch every week and putting the money in,” she said.
“Every time I came in to add more, Nicole would say, ‘Hey, Alex? How is everything going with your travel fund and trip?’ and was a huge cheerleader. It took so many little steps for me to get there, and it would have been easy to spend money on other things along the way, but I didn’t. I had that discipline and I did it — and it paid off in the trip and experience of a lifetime.”