‘There was just too much focus on me.’ Wells Fargo ex-CEO on why he left troubled bank

Wells Fargo’s former CEO Tim Sloan said on Thursday that he realized over the past few months it was time for him to leave the fourth-largest U.S. bank.

It was his first public appearance since announcing exactly a week ago that he was stepping down immediately, more than two years after a scandal over fake accounts erupted at the bank.

“It just become very clear to me that, fairly or unfairly ... there was just too much focus on me because I had been at the company for a long time,” Sloan said at a World Affairs Council of Charlotte event.

His abrupt departure came as Wells remains under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators after a 2016 scandal, in which Wells said bankers opened as many as 3.5 million bank and credit card accounts without customer permission. Since then, the bank has struggled to fix its image as it has disclosed problems in other areas of the company.

On Thursday, Sloan said San Francisco-based Wells Fargo will continue to maintain a strong presence in Charlotte, the bank’s largest employment hub. Wells Fargo says it employs about 26,000 people across the metro area.

“This is a great place to live, it’s a great place to do business and it’s a great place to attract an incredible team member base,” Sloan said. “It’s one of the reasons why, when you’ve looked at Wells Fargo over the last few years, this has been the state, this has been the region, where you’ve seen the largest growth in our team member base.”

Sloan, 58, also noted that he has ties to the Charlotte region: His parents live in Davidson.

“This is a state and a city that we want to continue to expand in,” he said.

‘We’ve made some mistakes’

Sloan was promoted to CEO in 2016 after John Stumpf left the company during the fallout from the fake-accounts scandal.

Following Sloan’s announcement last week, the bank shifted general counsel Allen Parker into the CEO and president roles on an interim basis while it searches outside the company for Sloan’s replacement. Though Sloan is no longer CEO and president, he won’t be retiring from the company until June 30, Wells has said.

On Thursday, Sloan said that Wells has made about five years’ worth of change over the past two years, as he’s overhauled the company in the wake of the accounts scandal. Changes have included getting rid of product sales goals for retail bankers in branches and call centers.

But some critics, like the Committee for Better Banks, have said Wells must do more following Sloan’s departure to eliminate sales pressure that persists after the 2016 scandal.

Wells employees still face “the same toxic mix of high-pressure metrics and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that fueled the fraudulent account scandal,” the committee, a New York-based group pushing to unionize Wells employees, said last week.

Sloan admitted on Thursday that Wells failed to prevent the 2016 scandal by focusing too much on selling products to customers instead of providing advice and service to them, he said.

“We’ve made some mistakes, plain and simple,” he said.

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Deon Roberts has covered Charlotte’s financial services industry for The Charlotte Observer since 2013. His beat includes Bank of America and Wells Fargo. He attended Loyola University in New Orleans and is a native of Lafitte, La.