Wells Fargo Bank survived the scandals of 2018 and hopes for better things for 2019. It brought some of the scandals on itself.
But there are problems facing the bank in 2019. The Federal Reserve has told the bank to stop growing. Many observers watched as CEO Tim Sloan was castigated publicly when Senator Warren demanded he be fired.
Regulators have suggested that Wells Fargo tighten internal oversight, and the stated goal of the company is “TO BUILD THE MOST CUSTOMER-FOCUSED, EFFICIENT AND INNOVATIVE WELLS FARGO EVER.”
That is hard to do when the company admits creation of “fake accounts,” hitting customers with unfair mortgage fees and charging people for car insurance they didn’t need. Federal regulators discovered that Wells Fargo employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts without their customers knowing it. The bank was fined $185 million, and 5,300 employees were fired for related reasons, according to CNN Business news. About the same time, Wells Fargo was accused of illegally repossessing service member’s cars. The DOJ accused Wells Fargo of taking 413 cars without a court order, violating federal law. The bank paid $24 million to settle claims in this fiasco.
In October 2018, the State of California opened an investigation into possible identity fraud related to the fake account scandal.
In December, Wells Fargo was punished by federal regulators for failing to comply with Dodd-Frank, the law meant to better regulate big banks and protect consumers.
In 2017 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency announced that they were fining Wells Fargo $1 billion for car insurance and mortgage abuses.
OUR VIEW FROM MAIN STREET
This writer has been a founder, president and board member of several banks. Having written bank policies, hired and fired many bankers, I have helped conduct internal review and auditing of management practices.
From a local, “man on the street” viewpoint, we understand that bigger and bigger banks have more and more procedures and paper work and often fewer “personal” services. So in light of an environment where it appears that Wells Fargo has fired thousands of employees for inappropriate behavior, we would like to hope that currently the “local” branches get the message and work harder to take care of individual and personal banking needs. We would like to hope that local people will learn to treat local customers with respect and honor. To remember: "The customer is always right."
But it is easy for tellers, assistant managers and branch managers to become so over worked, so tired, or under so much pressure that they do not take the time or energy to deal with customers with kindness and respect. In an environment where many feel pressure and even fear of a new scandal, often times a work environment becomes stiff and unyielding.
WE DISCOVERED AND HONOR A REAL BANKER STAR
With all of this in mind, we wish to compliment and give recognition to one Wells Fargo person who actually epitomizes what a good banker should be. Instead of being intimidated by hundreds of new rules and regulations or exhausted by the pressures of repeated national scandals concerning the bank, this person understands that banking is “people to people” first.
Sophia Rodriguez, a Wells Fargo “Advisor,” has an office at the La Cueva Branch of Wells Fargo, located at 8100 Wyoming Blvd. NE, Ste J, Albuquerque, NM.
She exemplifies exceptional qualities as a banker. She is far above the “management swamp” of mediocre employees and managers that often have been hired and fired by Wells Fargo. In February 2019, a customer came in whose wife had been hit with a double disaster. A beautiful, active woman who had been involved in movies (she was with Tina Fey, in Paramount’s WTF movie and NBC’s “The Patriot” series, among others) was suddenly stricken with a heart attack. She was rushed to the Heart Hospital in Albuquerque, where she had heart surgery. But the next day, she awoke only to learn that she had been stricken with a stroke. An unseen blood clot had gone to her brain. She was half paralyzed and largely bed fast, unable to write, walk, speak clearly or even raise her head. Her husband came in to Wells Fargo to see about signing a signature card so that he could pay his wife’s bills. Sophia realized that this required a notarized signature, but the poor woman could not even get out of her hospital bed, how was she going to handle a notarized document?
So Sophia Rodriguez took off from work, went to the hospital and personally witnessed this stricken woman sign the documents. Sophia Rodriguez notarized the documents, and the woman cried as she haltingly said:
“You are a good woman … an exceptional banker.”
What a contrast, this banker -- a genuine, exceptional banker who actually practices what Wells Fargo states: “People to People First.” Other bankers should recognize her example and copy it. Too many are too quick to run to the procedure manuals or be flat-out rude to people … or to rely upon, "This is our rule, our way or the highway." In contrast, Sophia Rodriguez showed empathy and "people to people heart." She was there, people to people, trying to help a fellow human being.
We recommend her to you, if you are ever in need of a real banker. Head over to 8100 Wyoming Blvd. NE, and ask for Sophia Rodriguez, and meet an exceptional banker. Don't settle for anyone else.
If Wells Fargo can get more on board like her, it can really rebuild its franchise and perhaps overcome all of the scandals created by “lesser” people, who seem to pop up from time to time.