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Wells Fargo CEO: We’re proud of our progress

2017 was a tumultuous year for Wells Fargo

In 2016 Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties to settle allegations that its employees created more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts to meet aggressive sales goals. Soon after, the Observer and other media outlets report
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In 2016 Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties to settle allegations that its employees created more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts to meet aggressive sales goals. Soon after, the Observer and other media outlets report

In response to “The embarrassment that is Wells Fargo” (Our View, Jan. 6):

As CEO of Wells Fargo, I strongly disagree with your editorial board’s characterization of our company as an “embarrassment” to Charlotte. I believe your editorial reflects a lack of understanding and appreciation for one of the city’s most important employers — a company that long has been committed to Charlotte’s growth and success.

Wells Fargo is proud to employ 25,500 hardworking and dedicated team members in Charlotte. We also donated more than $11 million to local nonprofits in 2017 (the latest year for which we have complete data), and local team members donated nearly 180,000 volunteer hours to community causes. Charlotte team members also joined their colleagues across the company in making us the No. 1 United Way campaign in the U.S. for the ninth consecutive year. And just last fall, our company committed another $20 million to address the need for affordable housing in Charlotte. We are proud of our contributions to the city, and we look forward to a continued, robust presence in Charlotte.

I’ll be the first to admit that Wells Fargo has had issues in the past — issues we greatly regret and are working hard to resolve. In fact, just days after I assumed the CEO role in October 2016, I addressed our entire company from the Knight Theater in Charlotte and took responsibility for addressing those issues, while also pledging to examine every business at Wells Fargo. I assured all of our stakeholders that we would be transparent in our actions.

Nearly all of the matters we have faced reflect issues from our past, including the recently settled state attorneys general matter and the California insurance matter you cite in your editorial, which we disclosed more than a year ago. Nevertheless, these past matters need to be resolved in the present — and that is an important part of my job as CEO. In today’s world, resolving these matters can take years and involve potentially lengthy and costly litigation. The recent settlements reflect important progress in our goals to move Wells Fargo forward as quickly as possible while also continuing to provide our customers with high-quality service and advice every day.

In the past two years, with the full support of our Board of Directors, we have undertaken a massive effort to transform Wells Fargo. Our teams across the company, including those in Charlotte, understand that responsibility and are working tirelessly every day to make things right for customers and build a better bank — while we also take care of millions of customers and keep all stakeholders apprised of our progress.

Our progress hasn’t stopped there. Here are other examples of significant changes we’ve made at Wells Fargo since 2016:

• New organizational structure. We have streamlined the company’s historically decentralized operating structure, added new leaders in key positions (many from outside the company), enhanced the way we serve customers, strengthened risk and compliance measures, and worked to improve the culture at Wells Fargo. This work is not done, but we have made solid progress.

• Elimination of product sales goals. From a retail banking perspective, Wells Fargo eliminated product sales goals for retail bankers who serve customers in bank branches and call centers and created a new compensation plan focused on customer experience, stronger oversight and controls, and team versus individual incentives. In the past two years, team members in the Community Bank have invested more than 800,000 hours in learning and development to support Change for the Better, an initiative launched in 2017 that includes new systems, processes, and tools that help team members better serve the needs of customers.

• Improved customer experience. Our customers today are finding an entirely new experience as we focus on conversations aimed at helping Wells Fargo better understand their financial needs.

• Innovating for customers. Since 2016, we have emphasized helping customers succeed financially through industry-leading product and service innovations such as real-time balance alerts, a digital brokerage offering for those who are new to investing, and our online mortgage application.

• Team member retention. On the team member front, we have reduced voluntary team member attrition to its lowest level in more than five years, increased pay for entry-level team members in the U.S., and granted restricted stock rights to approximately 250,000 team members.

• Giving back to our communities. We also increased the company’s overall commitment to philanthropy, which we expect to top $400 million in 2018, again making us one of the top corporate givers in the U.S.

• Financial performance. For shareholders, the company has continued to generate solid financial results and strong capital returns, and we remain committed to meeting our expense targets.

In short, we are working hard to build the most customer-focused, efficient, and innovative Wells Fargo ever — characterized by a strong financial foundation, a leading presence in the markets we serve, focused growth within a responsible risk management framework, operational excellence, and highly engaged team members.

Make no mistake, we know there is more work to do and historical matters to resolve, but our progress in the past two years is real and is continuing. Our team members are focused on this path forward and we are, together, building a better Wells Fargo.

I thank our customers and partners for their loyalty and support, our stakeholders for their engagement, and our team members for their passion and commitment to deliver on our vision. Despite the view of your editorial board, we come to work every day proud to serve this great city and help our customers succeed. Our pride and dedication will only continue to strengthen and grow across Wells Fargo, including right here in Charlotte.

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