Laura Schulte, Wells Fargo’s highest-ranking community banking executive in Charlotte, will retire from the company before the end of the year, the lender announced Thursday.
Schulte, president of Wells Fargo’s Eastern U.S. community banking operations, has been in Charlotte since moving from the West Coast five years ago, right after the lender completed its merger with the troubled Wachovia.
Wells Fargo said Schulte, who has been with the company for more than three decades, will be succeeded by Michelle Lee, president of community banking operations for the Northeast.
Lee, who is based in New Jersey, will relocate to Charlotte, where she will oversee approximately 32,000 employees and about 2,700 branches in 14 states and Washington, D.C.
Schulte had been in line to serve a one-year term as chair of the Charlotte Chamber in 2016. On Thursday, the chamber announced that Ned Curran, president of The Bissell Cos., will instead serve as chair in 2016.
Schulte, who could not be reached for comment, was president of Wells Fargo’s Western region when she relocated from Los Angeles in January 2009, one month after Wells’ merger with Charlotte-based Wachovia was completed.
The $15.1 billion deal would be the largest bank merger in U.S. history and a pivotal moment in Charlotte’s banking history, as the region lost a major headquarters.
In her 2013 acceptance speech for Queens University of Charlotte’s BusinessWoman of the Year award, Schulte recalled the emotions that swept through Charlotte over the loss of Wachovia.
“The team at Wachovia and the community were in a state of shock,” she said. “No one could believe what had happened during a very short time at the beginning of the financial crisis. People were mourning the loss of Wachovia – and rightly so.”
In the speech, Schulte said it was hard for her when the last Wachovia sign had to be taken down.
“At the time of the Wells Fargo/Wachovia merger, we knew sending the right person to the East was a critical factor in the success of the merger,” Carrie Tolstedt, head of community banking for Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “Laura had the perfect combination of business acumen, knowledge of the Wells Fargo model and relationship building skills.”
Lee will report to Tolstedt, who is based in San Francisco, where Wells Fargo is headquartered.
Wells Fargo said Schulte plans to remain in Charlotte and stay active in the community.
In addition to serving on the Charlotte Chamber’s board, she serves on the boards of the Foundation for the Carolinas, Charlotte Center City Partners, UNC Charlotte and Charlotte Country Day School.
In a statement, Schulte said she was grateful for the opportunity to move to Charlotte at the time of the merger.
“I saw immediately that we gained immense talent and a passion for serving customers with the Wachovia merger. It has truly been an honor to serve on the Wells Fargo team and the Charlotte community,” she said.
Wells Fargo’s highest-ranking executive in Charlotte remains David Carroll, who leads its wealth, brokerage and retirement operations.