Wells Fargo had its share of scandals much to the joy of their competitors. As the news and PR nightmare dropped its heavy hammer on Wells Fargo, customers flocked to other banks who they believed were more ethical in their treatment of customers. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in New York.
What Happened at Wells Fargo?
There were a number of scandals in the news. Primarily, Wells Fargo had a system in place that relied heavily on sales. In order to meet those numbers, their personal bankers came up with ways to grow in their careers by creating accounts that were unnecessary. They even closed perfectly fine accounts and reopened them telling the customers there was a problem or new features available. Since it was a quick process, most customers agreed despite having to update their information in other places. The banking managers turned a blind eye to this because their teams were meeting their numbers which, in turn, made the managers meet their own numbers.
Where it went bad was when the shadier of personal bankers decided to use social security numbers of deceased individuals or relatives in other countries to open bank accounts, then sit on them until a period of time passed, then close the accounts. Rinse and repeat. If one person did it, they could have gotten away with it for a number of years. Some did. When it is done on a national scale the higher ups were seeing an increasing number of accounts but not the ratio of deposits and revenue. How do you stem the tide when the bank is so big that accountability is lost to the masses AND the executives still had to meet THEIR numbers? Eventually, even customers started getting wary of the game and filed complaints and then the news grabbed hold and the rest is history.
Wells Fargo Was the One That Got Caught
They all did it. All the banks did it, they opened unnecessary accounts for their customers. They closed and reopened accounts so their salespeople could meet their quotas. Granted they were not as overt about it and that is why they did not get caught. You can bet they did their fair share of scrambling when Wells Fargo was exposed. I believed that once the can of worms was opened, there would be more banks getting scrutinized and exposed but it has not happened yet. Enough time has gone by that the competing banks could pivot their tactics and change their way of doing business so they do not fall down the same PR hell.
Where Does Wells Fargo Go From Here?
Commercials are sprayed all over the place informing the world they screwed up and are sorry and have changed their ways so trust them again. I believe customers should. Wells Fargo, in my opinion, is on the cutting edge of technology relative to the banking industry. What does this mean? It means their online banking platforms, and other technological advances in servicing their customers is far beyond any other national bank.
When working with each of the main top banks in the country, WFB were always the ones most open to new ways of approaching business, banking, and lending, in the technological world of today. Most other banks would offer resistance for excuses for why they could not do it. One even said they would rely on farming their current customer base and that was all they needed to do. You can never rely on one vertical if you are trying to grow your bank. Plus, tapping the same well over and over again will dry it up and then all you have is the slow death of customer attrition.
For the younger generation, who have to trust in a bank, Wells Fargo is not terrible. They got caught but they were not the only ones doing it. They changed those business practices enough to not get slaughtered and they still offer great services in other ways.
Finally, at some point customers have to take some responsibility for what happened. I have been a customer of WFB and I had multiple accounts added and linked to my primary ones. I did not understand how much it affected their numbers but I knew they were trying to hit those numbers. I also knew those accounts were unnecessary but I let them get created anyway. I lost perhaps a hundred or so bucks out of it and let the accounts close. When other personal bankers tried to open more in the future, I declined. The sales pitch was decent from the personal bankers but the customer has to take some accountability for themselves, even if this is a society where personal responsibility is frowned upon for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
Give them another shot, if you view banks as evil, consider them one of the lesser of the evils. Especially now that the eye of the media and public are squarely on them, they will do their best to win back trust. Going back now is like getting extra goodies and discounts from a store grand opening or buying into stocks when they are at the bottom and climbing. Take advantage of that.
DISCLAIMER: I am not paid by Wells Fargo for this indorsement nor was approached by them. I am a customer of Wells Fargo. I was a ‘victim’ of some of their practices. I got over it.