Inside the Stagecoach
October 12, 2018

‘Fixing things forward’ at Wells Fargo

Mary Mack, ranked among Fortune magazine’s ‘Most Powerful Women,’ shares with Fortune the innovation she’s leading as head of Wells Fargo Consumer Banking.

Two years after Mary Mack was tapped to lead sweeping changes at Wells Fargo’s Community Bank, she continues to lean into the “hard choices” required to enact better ways to serve customers and rebuild trust.

“My worry has been about not just fixing things (in the past), but fixing it forward,” Mack said Oct. 2 during the “Hard Choices: Pivoting for the Long Term” session at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in Laguna Niguel, California.

“It was clear both the operating environment and basis for engaging customers needed to change” when she took the helm in August 2017, she said, but she also realized team members serving millions of customers each day in a business couldn’t re-invent it at the same time.

So, while team members focused on serving customers, Mack put together a team from across Wells Fargo to design and implement changes such as replacing sales incentives with a new compensation system, and creating a new customer relationship platform that gives team members across Wells Fargo a more holistic view of customers.

Listening tours Mack held at locations across the country have allowed thousands of team members to provide direct feedback about the changes and refine them to help build a better bank.

Mack now leads nearly 110,000 team members as the head of Consumer Banking — a name change that resulted from combining Community Banking and Consumer Lending under her leadership.

Her appearances at the Fortune event in California — and at the Sept. 25 Fortune Brainstorm Reinvent 2018 conference in Chicago — come when the magazine ranked her No. 35 on its Most Powerful Women in Business list (up from No. 37 in 2017), and when American Banker ranked her its No. 1 Woman to Watch for the second year in a row.

“People ask me, ‘What’s the most important thing you did?’” Mack said, also noting the monthly callouts she and other leaders held for the investment community as Wells Fargo highlighted business results and the actions to rebuild trust. “It’s a lot of things that began to build a story that said ‘We’ve got your back, you can trust us.’

“The world continues to change with our customers, and as our bank and nonbank competitors continue to innovate, we also need to set aside resources and time for innovation,” said Mack — explaining why Wells Fargo created the Payments, Virtual Solutions and Innovation group led by Avid Modjtabai.

One way Wells Fargo is adapting for customers, Mack said, is through its new online mortgage application, which pre-populates existing customer data that can help reduce the time it takes Wells Fargo to open and close a mortgage loan application. The streamlined process gives Wells Fargo home mortgage consultants more time to answer customer questions and help them better understand the homebuying process, she said.

“It’s a lot of things ... that said ‘We’ve got your back, you can trust us.’” — Mary Mack

Since its release in the first quarter of 2018, use of the online mortgage application has grown steadily, representing 27 percent of all retail applications in August, Mack said.

“For us, scale is a real advantage,” she said, when asked Sept. 25 at the Fortune Brainstorm Reinvent 2018 conference in Chicago about the benefits that set Wells Fargo’s online mortgage offering apart from those offered by other lenders.

“With the largest mortgage servicing portfolio in the country, the largest home lending sales force, and relationships with 36 million consumer households companywide … if a Wells Fargo customer we know is buying a property we know, we will be able to create an experience for them that is second to none by using all those data sources to save them time.”

And that, Mack said, is empowering our team to help our customers make informed choices, and helping more customers achieve the dream of homeownership.

“As soon as you sign on, we pre-populate everything about you,” Mack added at the summit. “Many customers can have almost an instant preapproval.”

Attracting top talent to Wells Fargo has also been a successful initiative. “People are so drawn to our story, and my objective is to make sure they know this is the place they can make an impact,” said Mack, citing the recent hiring of Mandy Norton as Wells Fargo’s chief risk officer.

‘Leaning in’ to change

While not related to sales practices, Mack highlighted Wells Fargo’s announced reductions in its branch network as another change the company needed to tell its own story about.

“We’re headed to 5,000 (from a branch network of 6,200 bank branches),” she said. “We had branches across the street from each other and realized the world we operate in is changing and leaned into that.”

With its ranks dominated by millennials who prefer to use their smartphones and mobile devices for everyday banking transactions, Mack said, Wells Fargo knows it needs to “step up our game in the branches and add value” and create a great experience no matter when, where, and how customers prefer to bank with Wells Fargo.

“If you are in Minnesota in January and you bother to get into a car and come to one of our branches, we better be creating a great experience because you could have done it (banked with us online already) in your pajamas in your own house.”