Editor’s note: On April 5, Jon Weiss, head of Wealth and Investment Management, shared the following message with Wells Fargo team members and clients.
A story published today by Bloomberg News was likely unsettling for you to read, as it was for me, because it did not accurately reflect how we do business and serve our clients. The article omitted important information and gave the incorrect impression that compensation practices in Wealth and Investment Management led to charging clients for unwanted accounts or services.
The story failed to describe accurately how our compensation plans work, how we are oriented around client outcomes, how we recognize and reward behavior that’s focused on our clients’ best interests, and the extensive supervisory oversight that exists in the business. So we want you, our clients and Wells Fargo team members, as well as other key stakeholders, to have the relevant information the story omitted, including the following:
- We at Wells Fargo stand by our approach to client investment advice that is tailored to the individual. Within Wealth and Investment Management, as with businesses across Wells Fargo, we are deeply committed to the long-standing relationships we have with clients, many of whom have been with us for decades, and some for generations. Every day, we see these relationships produce powerful results: Good advice can help a family buy a home, send a child to college, enable a couple to live well in retirement, and even leave a legacy for future generations.
- At Wells Fargo Advisors, the business within Wealth and Investment Management cited by Bloomberg, our financial advisors are not given incentives or compensated for simply opening accounts. Our compensation plans are designed to recognize client-focused behavior, and any assertion to the contrary is simply incorrect. We have in place long-established processes and practices to help ensure that account openings are authorized in writing by the client. Further, our compensation plans are designed to reward financial advisors who work to understand their clients’ financial situations and deliver quality advice most suitable to their clients’ needs.
- Advisory accounts are right for some clients, transactional accounts are right for others, and some clients need both. While the article notes concerns with advisory relationships, we are confident in our client-first approach as we work to understand each individual’s goals. Our team members know and understand their clients, and we give our clients choices based on the approach that best fits their needs and goals. Some clients are best served with advice on commission-based trading and investing, others benefit more from fee-based professional money management services, and some need both.
- The primary investment planning process at Wells Fargo Advisors is Envision®, and there is no client cost for an Envision plan. We introduced the Envision planning process in 2005 to help our financial advisors and clients discuss and explore their life goals, plan their investments around meaningful benchmarks, and track their progress seamlessly. About 80 percent of our Envision-based plans are updated every year, in line with our belief that clients should have a financial review at least annually. We have found that clients who have an up-to-date, aligned plan tend to be more satisfied with their financial advisor and their portfolios.
- We are committed to thorough reviews of Wealth and Investment Management, as described in our public 10-K disclosures, to their full conclusion. Wells Fargo’s top priority is to rebuild trust with all of our stakeholders. The disclosures in the 10-K filing reflect our continued commitment to transparency, even when all of the information or the final outcome of a matter may not be known just yet. We are making significant progress in our work to identify and fix issues, make things right, and build a better, stronger company.
In closing, let me emphasize that the relationships we have with our clients are the lifeblood of our business. I view every dollar invested with us as a vote of confidence in our ability to help our clients succeed financially. To preserve and deepen the trust our clients place in us, we focus on understanding their long-term aspirations, feelings toward risk, and full financial picture. We have no greater responsibility or priority than caring for the financial wellbeing of our clients.