Bank Watch

Charlotte exec’s new assignment: Repair Wells Fargo’s banking image

Mary Mack
Mary Mack

The executive charged with repairing Wells Fargo’s tarnished retail banking reputation is a former Wachovia and First Union veteran based in Charlotte.

The San Francisco-based bank this summer named Mary Mack the new head of its community banking unit effective July 31, replacing the retiring Carrie Tolstedt.

The move came a little more than a month before Wells agreed to pay $185 million in fines to settle allegations that some of its employees secretly opened accounts for millions of customers to meet high-pressure sales goals.

Those revelations have given a black eye to a banking giant that has long touted its corporate values and its ability to cross-sell multiple products to its customers. The controversy has also upset customers of the bank’s most profitable business at a time when financial institutions are struggling to increase revenue amid low interest rates.

Now it will be up to Mack, a Davidson College graduate who joined Charlotte-based First Union in 1984, to help restore customer trust, while also managing 6,000 branches and 94,000 employees across 39 states and the District of Columbia.

“It’s a huge job,” said Erik Oja, an analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Particularly challenging will be cleaning up the image of a bank that disclosed the firing of 5,300 employees for improper behavior, he said.

“I’d say this is a terrible (reputation) hit, because it’s so widespread,” Oja said. “It will take a long time to get over this.”

Wells Fargo did not provide comment or make Mack, 53, available for an interview.

In the past three decades as the bank morphed through major mergers, Mack has steadily risen through the ranks at First Union, Wachovia and then Wells Fargo, including holding roles that encouraged the cross-selling of products to customers.

She’s held positions ranging from head of community affairs to regional bank president to leader of the nation’s third-largest brokerage business.

In one of her early high-profile jobs, Mack in 2003 led an initiative that promoted referrals between bank divisions that Wachovia estimated could produce $500 million to $600 million in new revenues over five years. For instance, commercial bankers could be trained to ask business owners to do their personal banking with the company’s wealth management group.

“We have so many customers out there,” Mack said in an interview at the time. “Have we thought about how we do the best job of connecting the dots? Where is the best place to serve them in the company?”

Three years later, Wachovia named Mack head of Wachovia Securities’ investment services group, which had about 2,500 financial specialists in 2,000 bank branches. The goal was to provide branch customers with one-stop shopping for banking and investment products.

After Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008, Mack rose to head of the Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Services Group, which includes investment products, strategic and advisory solutions and lending services. By 2013, she was running the entire brokerage unit, succeeding the retiring Danny Ludeman.

As the head St. Louis-based Wells Fargo Advisors, she was in charge of 15,000 brokers nationwide who offered clients stocks, bonds, mutual funds and financial planning advice. Last year, industry publication American Banker named Mack No. 7 on its list of 25 most powerful women in finance, up from No. 24 the year before.

In taking on her latest role, Mack joined David Carroll, head of wealth and investment management, as the second former Wachovia executive to serve as a top lieutenant to CEO John Stumpf. She reports to president and chief operating officer Tim Sloan.

“Our team has tremendous confidence that Mary will continue the tradition of excellence and commitment to our company’s vision that so characterized the Community Banking team led by Carrie,” Stumpf said when the bank announced her new position.

In July, Mack said she was “thrilled” and “honored” to lead “the best retail banking team” in the industry.

“This is an exciting time to be in financial services,” she said in a statement, “especially on the retail side of the business, where we see expanding opportunities to add value to our customers’ lives, and where market trends point to new avenues for growth.”

The bank has not disclosed Mack’s salary in past securities filings. Her predecessor was one of the bank’s top-paid executives, earning $9.1 million in salary, bonus and stock awards in 2015. Tolstedt, who is based in San Francisco, has come under fire for exiting the bank with millions of dollars in accumulated stock awards, despite the fraud allegations that occurred on her watch.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts