Wells Fargo’s turnaround story was front and center as Mary Mack, the company’s head of Community Banking, sat down with American Banker Editor-in-Chief Marc Hochstein for a “fireside chat” March 23 in Miami.
Leading off the second day of the publication’s Retail Banking 2017 conference, which had “transformation” as one of its themes, Mack told Hochstein and his industry audience the change atop her priority list: “Our No. 1 priority is rebuilding trust. It’s rebuilding trust with team members. It’s rebuilding trust with customers. It’s rebuilding trust with policymakers and regulators — and so we’ve spent a lot of time in particular with lawmakers and regulators demonstrating to them that we’re doing everything we can to ensure the integrity, oversight, and ethics that we want to be known for as a company.”
In a discussion with Hochstein about morale at Wells Fargo and how long it will take the company to regain its footing, Mack called the shift from a sales- to a service-oriented culture “a marathon and not a sprint.”
Her 30-minute chat with Hochstein covered a range of topics, including how technology is changing banking, where brick-and-mortar locations fit into that evolution, how the industry should measure performance and service, and more. But the discussion largely focused on how one of America’s best-known banks is reshaping itself.
Hochstein asked Mack why Wells Fargo decided to eliminate the word “stores” and use “branches” — a change that came last year as she took the reins of Community Banking and that has proven popular.
“‘Stores’ to me, is a very transactional word … and ‘branches’ [is] more relational … and more reflective of the kind of relationships we want to have with our customers,” she said. “Everywhere I go, our team members tell me that they feel it reflects who they are and the way they are serving their customers.”
To industry watchers, Hochstein said, the name change felt like the “end of an era” — a watershed moment for a company seeking to reconnect with a time when the name Wells Fargo epitomized service and putting customers’ needs first.
Building a better bank
Since assuming leadership of Community Banking amid the sales practices settlement, Mack has moved swiftly to rededicate Wells Fargo to putting customers first.
The retail bank has eliminated product sales goals, adopted a new Performance Management and Rewards program, announced the creation of a new customer and branch experience group, and formed 11 teams to lead its top-to-bottom transformation.
Mack also helped put in place a new group risk officer for the Community Bank. Vic Albrecht moved from Wells Fargo’s Wealth and Investment Management business to put robust controls in place for Community Banking as its head of Risk, reporting to Chief Risk Officer Mike Loughlin.
Mack said the key goals of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank revamp are to empower team members; simplify policies, processes, and tools — including the way customer problems are handled; improve alignment and collaboration throughout the organization; and develop new and innovative ways to serve customers.
“There is a digital transformation occurring. We understand it and are excited about it. And we are leading it,” Mack said, noting the company’s plan to reduce the number of branches in 2017 and 2018, based on customer activity, economic trends, competitor actions, and other data. “At the same time,” she said, “we know the local branch is important to our success.”
Mack also mentioned Wells Fargo’s introduction of card-free ATMs next week — making the company the first large bank in the U.S. to upgrade all of its ATMs with card-free account access.
This focus on innovation and enhancing the customer experience led Wells Fargo to create the new Payments, Virtual Solutions, and Innovation group in 2016, she said, to “accelerate the company’s focus on delivering the next generation of payments capabilities, advancing digital and online offerings, and investing in research and development and strategic partnerships to design new customer experiences and products.”
‘Part of the solution’
While Mack said her entire Wells Fargo retail bank team — as well as customers and other stakeholders — has been affected by the sales practices issues, morale is rebounding and attrition is falling as the culture continues to shift.
She cited two visits to Orlando, Florida, as examples. In September, she said, team members wanted to know, “What happened? And what are we doing to manage the news reports we’re hearing?” This week, she said, their questions focused on topics like, “How do I build my career with Wells Fargo?”
Wrapping up her time with Hochstein, Mack listed several positive indicators for the Community Bank, including a flood of internal and external applicants for four open leadership positions she is looking to fill.
“People are saying, ‘I want to be part of the solution,’” she said. While the sales practice issue may have been born in the Community Bank, Mack said the entire company stands together as one Wells Fargo to make things right.
“All these are indications to me,” she concluded, “of people who are on board as we move forward.”