Bank Watch

In run-up to Wells Fargo scandal, her boss warned: ‘You’re going to be working your tail off’

Mary Mack, head of community banking for Wells Fargo
Mary Mack, head of community banking for Wells Fargo

When Mary Mack took on the biggest job of her career last summer, she only hesitated for a moment.

Mack, at the time head of Wells Fargo’s brokerage unit, was preparing to leave in 48 hours for an Alaskan vacation with her husband, when then-President Tim Sloan called to ask if she wanted to instead lead community banking. Mack asked Sloan if it meant she’d have to reschedule or miss part of the excursion, which had been on her husband’s “bucket list.”

“Tim said, ‘No, take your vacation. Enjoy it. Because you’re going to be working your tail off when you get back,’” Mack said Friday during a speaking appearance at a Hood Hargett Breakfast Club gathering at Quail Hollow Club.

Mack took on her new role in July, replacing retiring community banking head Carrie Tolstedt right before Wells Fargo in September would become mired in a sales scandal and fined $185 million by authorities and regulators. Mack, 54, now reports directly to Sloan, who became CEO when John Stumpf stepped down in the scandal’s wake.

Since the scandal, Mack’s been crisscrossing the country to gather feedback from Wells’ employees and playing a key part in helping the San Francisco-based bank recover from the scandal. The image of the third-largest U.S. bank has been marred by allegations employees opened million of accounts customers might not have authorized to meet high-pressure sales goals.

“We’re sorry, it’s unacceptable, and it’s not reflective of the Wells Fargo that I know and hopefully the Wells Fargo that you know in this community,” Mack said Friday. “We redoubled our efforts on making things right, rebuilding trust and taking accountability.”

“We’ve got more work to do,” she said.

Mack, who went to work for Charlotte-based Wells predecessor First Union right out of college, recalled on Friday another question she asked Sloan before deciding whether to take her new job: Could she relocate from St. Louis, where she was running the brokerage unit, so she could work in Charlotte and live in the home she still owned in Fort Mill, S.C.?

“He said, ‘Absolutely. Charlotte is one of our biggest employment areas, if not the biggest, in the country. That’d be a great place for you to be,’” Mack said.

Following the scandal, the bank has taken different steps to clean up its practices, including eliminating product sales goals, introducing a new compensation plan for branch bankers, firing some executives and denying cash bonuses to others.

Such moves come as Wells has been under investigation by federal and state authorities since the scandal. In Charlotte, federal investigators have begun interviewing bank examiners here, sources familiar with the matter said this week. The bank’s board also continues to conduct its own probe and said results will be made public by Wells’ April 25 annual shareholders meeting.

Faced with “news that we wake up and read about Wells Fargo,” Mack said she stays inspired by visiting employees in her unit, which includes about 6,100 branches and about 75,000 branch employees across 39 states.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts