A major bank has started hosting 'simplicity boot camps' for employees



Mark McCormick believes in innovation just as much as the next businessperson, but not the kind that requires fancy gizmos or complicated gadgets to get there.

McCormick, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo, believes personal and professional progress is achieved through a life of simplicity - and he thinks other Wells Fargo staff should get on board, too.

Ever since he attended a conference in China in 2014, where he learned about the benefits of a pared-down lifestyle, McCormick has directed his energy toward making Wells Fargo a bank that runs on less - less complexity, less red tape, and, ultimately, less stress.

His latest rollout: monthly boot camps designed to help employees simplify their jobs and their lives.


"It's ultimately about the ROI of simplicity, and how simplicity drives value," McCormick says, emphasizing that personal satisfaction and peace of mind can translate into greater customer satisfaction, and, therefore, revenue.

His example: fraud claims.

When people call their bank to report a fraud case, they need the employee on the other end to be a source of calm, McCormick says. At Wells Fargo, that was proving difficult. Staff had dozens of systems to comb through just to verify the caller was who they said they were. And the specialists' stress often came through during the call, making the experience worse.

Only after Wells Fargo realized it was the complexity of the system that made people's lives harder, McCormick says, could they fix the problem by cutting the number of systems in half. In the end, simplifying people's work flow solved what seemed at first like a customer-service problem.

The boot camps, which contain 25 to 30 people during a full-day workshop, try to get people into this kind of mind set. It can be tough, McCormick says, since bankers are often analytical people who don't want "ooey-gooey" advice on how to live. The trick, he says, is showing them how it's good for business.


In each session he discusses three principles: paring down to the essentials, creating a human story, and iteration.

First, people learn to strip away the waste in their lives and jobs - to keep only the things that "spark joy," as organizing expert Marie Kondo advises.

Then McCormick highlights the value of stories that appeal both to people's minds and their emotions. He says some customers are bound to be empaths, while others are more logical. In addition to being simple and easy to understand, services and product must be sold with both kinds of people in mind, McCormick says.

During the boot camp, for example, he often gives people a 401(k) brochure. He tells them to reconstruct the brochure to make it less cluttered and more human. With the guidelines he offers, people often make the legalese more conversational, and they add language that reminds them of the free time a retirement can offer.

Finally, he encourages staff to test out the simplified systems they create, keep what works well, and tweak what doesn't. For instance, in the case of the fraud claims, even though the company cut the back-end systems in half, the process can still be simplified further. A 401(k) brochure can still be a delight to read, if people don't need to exert too much effort to read it.


McCormick says the simplicity project started long before Wells Fargo was embroiled in the 2016 scandal of employees being forced to open 2 million fake customer accounts (it was recently settled for $110 million). But he says the lawsuit was a lesson in the value of simplicity when dealing with ethical matters.

"The connection is people believe that when things are more simple, you're operating at a higher standard of ethics," he says. "Because when things are simpler, it demonstrates you're being more transparent. You're being more open."

Ultimately, he hopes people can incorporate the principles of simplicity in their own lives, and that it will feed into the work they do at Wells Fargo.

"Innovation is hollow," he says, "unless it's in the service of simplicity."