Bank Watch

Wells Fargo to lift minimum pay for thousands of workers

A man uses a Wells Fargo automated teller machine at a bank branch in New York in July 2016.
A man uses a Wells Fargo automated teller machine at a bank branch in New York in July 2016. Bloomberg

Wells Fargo said Thursday it is raising the lowest hourly pay it provides U.S. workers to $13.50, up from $12, becoming the latest big bank to announce similar plans.

The San Francisco-based bank, which employs about 23,500 in the Charlotte region, said the higher pay takes effect Sunday. In an Observer interview, Wells Fargo compensation head Mike Branca said the move will initially affect more than 25,000 workers across the U.S.

Branca, who is based in Charlotte, said the change largely benefits workers in entry-level roles such as tellers and customer services representatives – employees who are “on the front lines with our customers.”

Wells said the move puts its new minimum hourly pay range at $13.50 to $17, compared with $12 to $16 previously. That previous range had been in place since March 2016, when the floor was increased from $11.50.

Branca described the latest increase as a “significant jump up” but part of Wells Fargo’s “normal course of business.”

“We evaluate pay in this way every year,” he said. “We make sure we stay competitive.”

The move also follows increases in minimum pay announced by Wells Fargo’s U.S. peers in recent months.

In December, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan disclosed plans by the Charlotte-based company to raise wages for its lowest-paid workers to $15 an hour, up from $13.50. The bank has said the change takes effect in early 2017.

In July, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon announced the New York-based bank would increase minimum pay for 18,000 employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour over the next three years.

Competitors’ actions didn’t prompt Wells Fargo’s decision, said Branca, noting the third-largest U.S. bank by assets has been raising its pay floor for years.

“Although we have an eye toward the market ... this has been in the works as part of our normal process for some period of time,” said Branca, who was head of compensation for Bank of America’s consumer banking unit before joining Wells in 2012.

The pay increases by banks also come amid calls by groups across the U.S. to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour, a push that has prompted demonstrations in Charlotte and elsewhere in recent years.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, a level it’s been at since since 2009. North Carolina’s minimum wage is also $7.25.

Last year, some other major U.S. companies also announced pay increases for some of their employees, as the labor market has tightened. Also, starting this year, minimum wages will increase in 19 states, from Massachusetts to California, boosting pay for millions of people.

Branca cited such factors as drivers behind Wells Fargo’s decision.

“We, like everybody else, are looking to attract the best team members that we can for the roles that we have,” he said. “The market’s becoming more competitive ... and we’ll continue to keep an eye on how those things play out over time.”

He said Wells Fargo’s latest increase is not directly related to the bank’s efforts to revamp how it compensates its retail bankers following a sales scandal that erupted in September.

“This is a decision we would have made independent of that,” Branca said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts