Bank Watch

Wells Fargo makes changes in wealth unit after scandal, documents show

Customers walk into a Wells Fargo bank in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Sept. 22, 2016.
Customers walk into a Wells Fargo bank in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Sept. 22, 2016. AP

Wells Fargo is changing how it refers to performance meetings for some wealth and investment management employees following the bank’s settlement last month over its retail sales practices, according to internal communications obtained by the Observer.

The communications suggest Wells’ efforts to overhaul its sales process might extend beyond its retail banking operations.

In a switch that affects several hundred Wells Fargo call center employees in Charlotte and elsewhere, “goal setting” meetings are now being called “performance review” meetings. “As I’m sure you can put two and two together, this is due to the recent settlement,” reads an email to employees from a manager at a West W.T. Harris Boulevard call center.

The move comes after San Francisco-based Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in fines to settle regulators’ claims that employees in branches for years secretly opened customer accounts in order to meet sales quotas. Earlier this month, Wells Fargo eliminated product sales goals for retail bankers as it works to reform its practices in the wake of the scandal.

“At Wells Fargo we’re in the process of reviewing everything we do to serve clients and create a supportive environment for team members,” a Wells Fargo spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said the meeting name change “speaks to our commitment to reinforce and remind our team members that our focus is on client service and on performance metrics that attest to client satisfaction.”

Employees impacted by the change field phone calls from customers. They do not sell wealth and investment products but might refer customers to financial advisers who do. The bank’s wealth and investment management unit is run by Charlotte-based David Carroll.

Wells Fargo has not announced any plans to eliminate sales goals in businesses outside retail banking.

The Observer has previously reported on customer claims that Wells Fargo employees gave them certain investment products without their permission. Customers contacted the Observer with those allegations after the announcement of last month’s settlement.

In a previous statement, Wells Fargo told the Observer it recognizes “the trust our clients place in our (financial) advisers and our company means everything; it’s the foundation of our relationship and the way we do business together.”

“It’s important for clients to know that their investment accounts with Wells Fargo Advisors are unaffected by the events associated with the (September) settlement agreements involving Wells Fargo Bank.”

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts