At the Wells Fargo branch in Port Townsend, Washington, on the Puget Sound, Personal Banker Shauna Kohl considers her customers family.
So when she learned someone was taking advantage of “Miss Bev” — 81-year-old customer Beverly Thompson, whose rapier-like wit, humor, and smile make her visits highly anticipated events — Kohl sprang into action.
“I was noting she kept having to take advances off of her line of credit to pay her bills, and was getting deeper and deeper in debt,” said Kohl, who first met Thompson when she joined Wells Fargo as a teller in 2014. She soon discovered the reason: Thompson had a rental home to provide income in retirement, but she hadn't received any rent from the tenants in two years.
“The county had begun to send letters threatening to fine her for the condition of the property,” Kohl said. “That’s when I stepped in to connect her with the resources that she could use to get the current tenants out of the home so she could either sell or rent to another family. I told her that it was time someone stood up for her.”
“I didn't mean to make anyone upset with me but it was too much for me to handle on my own,” Thompson said. “I didn't know where to start. I’m really happy Shauna got the ball rolling.”
Kohl was already meeting with Thompson at the branch monthly to help her balance her checkbook and make sure all her bills were paid — it seemed only natural to offer to pitch in during her time of need.
“These are more than just our customers,” Kohl said. “These are lifelong relationships.”
Before Kohl helped her understand her options as the homeowner, Thompson’s rental home had been the site of two abandoned cars and furniture in the driveway, knee-high grass, and debris. With the lawn mowed, hundreds of pounds of trash hauled to the dump, and the cars removed by local police, the neighbors thanked her, the county dropped the fines, and Thompson took Kohl’s advice and contacted a realtor. The result? A new tenant, and much-needed rental income.
“These are more than just our customers. These are lifelong relationships.”
— Shauna Kohl
“Re-renting the house helped Miss Bev financially stay on top of her bills, which she was unable to do for the past few years,” Kohl said. “Her situation is better this past year than it was.
“Miss Bev wants to do good for others, and I wanted to pay it forward. It made the neighborhood a better place.”
Kohl is currently working with Thompson to create a financial plan to pay down her debt and save, so she can enjoy her golden years.
“Miss Bev is part of our family at Wells Fargo,” Kohl said. “It’s like helping a relative. I would love for her to relax and enjoy what she worked so hard for all her life.”
Living by the golden rule
In addition to looking out for her customers, Kohl volunteers with the American Legion, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, and the local rhododendron club.
Each day, she said, she tries to live by the golden rule: treating others as she would want to be treated.
“I want them to trust us and I want to make them feel welcome."
— Shauna Kohl
“Treat others like your neighbor; like your family,” Kohl said of the advice she gives other team members about of the kind of service and experience customers deserve. “I want my customers to know that we offer a small-town experience here,” she said. “I want them to trust us and I want to make them feel welcome.
“I love being able to show up to a job that allows me to serve others every day,” she said. “It all starts with finances, but it becomes so much more as you get to know your customers as people. Once I begin to see the impact I have on their lives, it motivates me to be my best for them.”
‘They look out for me’
Thompson, a widow, doesn't get out much anymore since health problems forced her to retire. These days she loves playing solitaire on her computer and watching reruns of “Bewitched” and “Leave it to Beaver.” She was overwhelmed, she said, by the support she received from Kohl and the Port Townsend branch team.
“I didn’t think bankers were like this,” she said. She now looks forward to visiting the branch at least once or twice a month.
“I think the world of all my girls at Wells Fargo, and how they look out for me,” she said. “When I walk in, they say, ‘Hi, Miss Bev.’ They always make me feel very welcomed and loved. Wells Fargo has been a great bank to me, and I can’t ask for anything more.”