Wells Fargo CEO apologizes for online fiasco that left customers irate on payday

Bank of America and Wells Fargo are on different paths. What does it mean for Charlotte?

Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are the two biggest banks in Charlotte. However, the two banks are completely different.
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Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are the two biggest banks in Charlotte. However, the two banks are completely different.

Wells Fargo extended its branch operating times by one hour Friday and Saturday as the nation’s fourth-largest bank by assets labored to restore online and other services that went down Thursday.

San Francisco-based Wells, which has its largest employment hub in Charlotte, said the shutdown was caused by an automatic power shutdown at an unidentified data center when smoke was detected during routine maintenance. System applications were rerouted to other data centers, the bank said in a statement Friday.

By Thursday night, the bank said, most of its services were working. But Friday morning, it acknowledged continued problems with processing direct deposits on what for many of its customers is payday.

Irate customers blasted Wells on social media Friday when their online balances didn’t show direct deposits.

“Wells Fargo has yet to put my money in my account!!! Smh, as soon as I can’t get my money, I’m taking it out and finding a new bank. I’ve had four too many “glitches” and “outages” with this bank in a years timespan,” K. Averia tweeted Friday. It was typical of the type of responses customers were making.

As its systems were restored, Wells said Friday afternoon that some transactions, balances and payroll deposits weren’t reflected online or at ATMs. Despite that, the bank said, those transactions were processed and are visible in customer accounts.

Customers may see some delays in mobile and online banking as customers check their balances, it added.

Late Friday afternoon, Wells tweeted that some customers were still having problems viewing their accounts.

The glitch was the second shutdown of online banking in less than a week. A Wells spokesman said this week’s problems were not related to those of Feb. 1.

By Friday afternoon, the bank said, ATMs were working and customers could use their credit and debit cards.

Mobile and online banking was operating but with delays, and features including credit card and mortgage balances weren’t available. Calls to customer service were also put on hold longer than usual.

CEO and president Tim Sloan apologized to customers Friday. Wells has said it will reverse any bank fees that resulted from the shutdown.

“While we restored operations throughout the day and continue to address customer concerns, our recovery from these issues was not as rapid as we or our customers would have expected,” Sloan said in a statement. “We will review the system issues in detail, and do all we can to ensure that this type of disruption doesn’t happen again.”

‘It raises concerns’

Thursday’s shutdown came as Wells Fargo labored to restore customer faith in the bank after revelations in 2016 that employees possibly opened 3.5 million unauthorized accounts to meet high-pressure sales goals.

Consumer advocates said customers deserve more than an apology.

Alfred Ripley, director of the housing and consumer project for the North Carolina Justice Center, a Raleigh economic justice nonprofit, said Wells should place a moratorium on customer fees while the problems persist.

“You’ve got to really ask what’s going on with an institution that repeatedly has these violations being reported,” Ripley said. “It raises concerns.”

Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for U.S. PIRG, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, urged Wells customers to file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Litt also warned customers to watch for phishing scams, such as emails, texts and calls asking for account information.

“Absolutely, consumers do need to be made whole,” Litt said. “What we’ve found is that in a lot of cases those (CFPB) complaints do result in some relief for consumers.”

Charlotte, North Carolina based Wachovia was sold to Wells Fargo 10 years ago at the peak of the 2008 economic recession. With the major banking business now facing its own financial struggles, people wonder if Wachovia could have survived.

CNBC reported that a fire suppression system was triggered at a Wells Fargo data center in Minnesota early Thursday, but the news site said it hadn’t confirmed whether that incident was linked to the banking system problems.

Experts told American Banker that the shutdown might be traceable to flaws in the bank’s emergency backup plans.

“I would equate this situation to one where banks may be limited by their imaginations or actual testing constraints,” Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst at Aite Group, told American Banker.

“It is very difficult to test backup systems for every potential scenario, and testing may literally be impossible for some scenarios. Bank executives also have to make some assumptions during that disaster recovery testing and their assumptions may be at fault.”

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Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.