From the moment he first interviewed to become a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo in the late 1990s, Michael Wakefield felt comfortable and included within the company.
“Being gay has never been a problem, and I can be open about it,” Wakefield said. “If I go to a town and talk to a bank manager, I’m open about the fact that I’m gay, and it’s not a problem. I am who I am.”
Today, more than two decades later, he remains a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo’s Stagecoach Experiences program.
Michael Wakefield, Wells Fargo stagecoach driver:
“Driving the Wells Fargo stagecoach is the pinnacle of my career. Starting out driving farm teams as a child and driving fine harness horses, driving competition horses, and finally ending up driving a four in hand with a stagecoach on the back of it, is just about as far as you can go in the driving world. Driving the coach for Wells Fargo is different than driving a coach for any other reason. We have a brand identification. So anytime we’re in the public eye, we are the face of Wells Fargo. Tuck, Lucy! Walk on.
Claire, parade participant:
“Good morning, y’all. Hello!”
“When the stagecoach comes down the street, it’s the real thing. This is what it was. This is a job that became obsolete a hundred years ago.”
It’s a personal responsibility to be true. My ancestors were all immigrants and some of them even drove coaches, and I take pride in that.
(Birds chirping and horse sounds)
Bill Trento, Michael’s life & business partner:
“The work here of the stagecoach program starts on the farm. Here every morning when we get up and we go out and feed and we check our horses, we check our animals.”
“They’re our family. They’re pretty spoiled.”
(Sounds of hay rustling)
“Now, here, this is Pluma.”
“Yes. Training horses to work in a team is a real strong mix of skill, art and science. There’s the science of how the horses are hitched. There’s the art of keeping them all looking like they’re supposed to look and then there’s the skill involved.”
“In getting them all to do what I want them to do at a particular moment. Are you ready? Haw! There’s my boy. Thank you. Wells Fargo is probably the most inclusive corporation that I have ever been near or around. I started with the company 21 years ago and they were already outreached to the LGBT community. I’m a gay man. And it was never an issue with the bank. I was able to just do my job without interference. Driving for Wells Fargo puts me in the front row seat for a lot of the outreach programs that the bank is doing. We do pride parade programs. We see depressed neighborhoods where we’ve done food drives. And the veterans program, which really, touches me. I am a veteran. I’m very proud to be associated with the company for that.”
(Marching band and stagecoach noise)
“People get the thrill of their life just riding in the stagecoach. And look what we get to do. It’s an amazing feeling to be partnered with Michael and to have that together. Wells Fargo has been incredible for us.”
“The bank provides this experience for the general public and I’m so grateful that it’s still going on and that I can be a part of it. It’s…I just can’t put it into words. When we see the reaction of the public to the stagecoach itself, it’s the most satisfying work that anybody could ever ask for.”
Many Wells Fargo team members and contractors like Wakefield have attested to and appreciated the company’s diverse and inclusive environment. For 31 years, since Wells Fargo added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy in 1987, the company has provided more than $50 million in support to LGBT organizations.
In addition to providing external support, Wells Fargo has had a PRIDE Team Member Network for 27 years, allowing more than 12,000 team members to connect, leverage, learn, and build their skills. In May, DiversityInc magazine ranked Wells Fargo one of the Top Companies for LGBT Employees.
In 2017, Wells Fargo launched the Standing Together campaign to celebrate its 30 years of commitment to the LGBT community and recognized the 25th anniversary of its first participation in the San Francisco Pride parade. The company continues to participate in Pride festivals and events around the country, some of which feature Wakefield at the helm of the stagecoach.
“Driving the Wells Fargo stagecoach is the pinnacle of my career. … I’m very proud to be associated with the company,” Wakefield said.