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April 17, 2020

Wells Fargo finds hand sanitizer in unlikely places

With its usual hand sanitizer supplier depleted by COVID-19 demand, Wells Fargo turns to a longtime skin care manufacturer customer and other nontraditional sources to help keep employees and customers safe.

Whish Beauty co-founder Aimee Werner had to make a tough business decision in 2019 — invest for growth or stay the course.

Because the Scottsdale, Arizona, business owner decided to invest — securing a new building and equipment to bring all production in-house — Werner can now help supply Wells Fargo and other essential businesses with the hand sanitizer they need. And she can keep her employees working instead of being furloughed.

“This all began for us in January when our suppliers, including one who also works with health care companies, began asking if we were able to make hand sanitizer,” Werner said of her 30-person business. “They said there was a critical need, so we started work on the licensing, ingredients, and other aspects to begin manufacture.

“The COVID‑19 pandemic is really scary,” she said. “The massage therapy and large retail businesses we’d normally supply are closed. We don’t know what it’s going to look like when everyone opens back up for business, but we have learned from past challenges how important it is to be in charge of our own destiny.

Image of Richard Henderson, head of Wells Fargo Corporate Properties with quote: Every location where employees still need to come into the office and support our customers has had enough sanitizer and other supplies to remain open.

“This is what we’re used to doing — pivoting.”

With thousands of employees serving customers in bank branches, contact centers, trading floors, and other locations, and their businesses unable to order sanitizer from their usual supplier, Richard Henderson, head of Corporate Properties for Wells Fargo, said the company had to pivot fast itself to find alternate hand sanitizer supplies to protect employee and customer health.

Hand sanitizer needs are running about seven times higher for the company now than before the pandemic, he said.

In its sourcing and contracts, Henderson said that Wells Fargo indicates health care workers and first responders should be the top priority for sanitizer and any other critically needed items. So far, he said, the company has been able to supply all its locations — even if that means reallocating supplies from a temporarily closed branch to another location.

“Every location where employees still need to come into the office and support our customers has had enough sanitizer and other supplies to remain open,” he said.

Jeremy Stolee, procurement operations leader for Wells Fargo’s Supply Chain Management, said the crisis has called for creativity in identifying suppliers, with its buyers using media articles, Google sleuthing, and personal tips to find potential sanitizer sources.

So far, the company has ordered or has pending orders from 19 sources, with more than eight new sources expected to come online soon. These include large and small distilleries.

Keith Robinson, a strategic sourcing consultant, first identified Whish Beauty as a potential sanitizer supplier. He and his wife had known Aimee Werner and her husband, Jesse, for years, and had heard about the plant upgrade.

“Whish quickly crafted multiple scenarios to meet our rapidly changing needs,” Robinson said. “In addition to partial and full semi-truck-sized shipments, they’re even delivering certain spot orders in the Phoenix area utilizing their own company vehicles.

“They’ve also provided full access to their product chemist for any questions or formulation adjustments, and have opened their building to us for on-site evaluations,” he said. “We look forward to successfully partnering to help ensure the safety of our employees, customers, and communities.”

Bottles of hand sanitizer for Wells Fargo on assembly line at Whish Beauty.
These bottles of Whish Beauty hand sanitizer are among the first to roll off the company’s assembly line at its plant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wells Fargo Commercial Relationship Manager Nancy Campo said it’s hard to believe how much the world and business has changed since she talked with the Werners in January about Whish Beauty’s future. They’ve been Wells Fargo customers since 2007.

“None of us could have imagined what we’re facing today and the role they’re playing in this crisis for our company and others,” Campo said.

Over the next several months, Whish Beauty will make more than 4.6 million ounces, or more than 36,000 gallons, of hand sanitizer for Wells Fargo.

Part of the first order — 5,000 33-ounce bottles with pumps — is en route to the Distribution Utility Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 324 bottles distributed locally in Phoenix. Larger orders will follow and be shipped to Charlotte beginning at the end of this month and running for 10 weeks.

“Keith is a friend of ours and came to us and said, ‘We can’t find it anywhere,’” Werner said. “We’ve been banking with Wells Fargo since day one of our business back in 2007, and when we talked to Keith we realized the need with tellers touching money and screens and appreciated the desire to help employees and customers keep their hands clean and stay safe with COVID‑19.

“We were glad to be able to help meet that need.”


Read other featured stories in our special section,“Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19.”

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