Wells Fargo’s pressure-cooker sales culture comes at a cost

E. Scott Reckard, Wells Fargo’s pressure-cooker sales culture comes at a cost. Los Angeles Times, 21 December 2013. “Wells Fargo & Co. is the nation’s leader in selling add-on services to its customers. The giant San Francisco bank brags in earnings reports of its prowess in “cross-selling” financial products such as checking and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages and wealth management. In addition to generating fees and profits, those services keep customers tied to the bank and less likely to jump to competitors. But that success has come at a cost. The relentless pressure to sell has battered employee morale and led to ethical breaches, customer complaints and labor lawsuits, a [Los Angeles] Times investigation has found.”


James Rufus Koren, Wells Fargo to pay $185 million settlement for ‘outrageous’ sales culture. Los Angeles Times, 8 September 2016. “Calling it “outrageous” and “a major breach of trust,” local and federal regulators hammered Wells Fargo & Co. for a pervasive culture of aggressive sales goals that pushed thousands of workers to open as many as 2 million accounts that bank customers never wanted. Those practices, first uncovered by the Los Angeles Times in 2013, led to a massive $185-million settlement package announced Thursday [8 September  2016].

Pete Vernon, Q&A: Former LA Times reporter on story that led to $185 million Wells Fargo fine. Columbia Journalism Review, 12 September 2016.

Adam Davidson, How Regulation Failed With Wells Fargo. The New Yorker, 12 September 2016.

To meet quotas, employees have opened unneeded accounts for customers, ordered credit cards without customers’ permission and forged client signatures on paperwork. Some employees begged family members to open ghost accounts.

These conclusions emerge from a review of internal bank documents and court records, and from interviews with 28 former and seven current Wells Fargo employees who worked at bank branches in nine states, including California….

When customers complained about the unwanted credit cards, the branch manager would blame a computer glitch or say the card had been requested by someone with a similar name….

Wells Fargo officials said they make ethical conduct a priority and punish or fire employees who don’t serve customers properly. They acknowledged the bank’s strong focus on selling, but said it is intended to benefit customers by identifying their needs….

Internal documents obtained by The Times show how carefully Wells Fargo tracks account openings and lucrative add-ons.

The documents, dated from 2011 through October, include a 10-page report tracking sales of overdraft protection at more than 300 Southland branches from Ventura to Victorville; a spreadsheet of daily performance by personal bankers in 21 sales categories; and widely distributed emails urging laggard branches to boost sales and require employees to stay after hours for telemarketing sessions.