Wells Fargo is undergoing a major transformation under CEO Charlie Scharf. Here are the business lines that are most affected.
- Wells has been revamping its wealth business and shrinking its mortgage unit under Charlie Scharf.
- Some units have suffered an exodus of talent. The bank has also axed some jobs.
Change is hard — just ask Charlie Scharf, CEO of Wells Fargo.
Scharf was placed at the helm of Wells Fargo in 2019 to help the San Francisco bank navigate its way out of a series of consumer scandals that started in 2016 when it was discovered that some employees had opened fake accounts on behalf of customers.
Since then, the nation's third-largest bank has paid out billions in fines and settlements and been placed under increased regulatory scrutiny, including a Federal Reserve asset cap that limits its growth.
Scharf, meanwhile, has made sweeping changes to how the bank operates and dramatically cut costs. He's overhauled the bank's leadership ranks, its wealth management business, its mortgage unit, and he has pledged to cut $10 billion in costs from the bank's bottom line.
But Scharf's changes have not always been popular, especially his cost-cutting measures. And for every scandal Wells Fargo has put behind it, a new one seems to crop up.
Here's a rundown of how Scharf has transformed the bank since he took the helm, including overhauls to the bank's mortgage and wealth businesses and developments in tech.
The wealth business
When Scharf first took the reins, the bank had several wealth-management businesses, including the brokerage, known as Wells Fargo Advisors, which has no minimum but offers advisory services to clients with at least $250,000 to invest. It also had two private wealth brands: the private bank, which served clients with $2.5 million to $50 million in assets, and Abbot Downing, which catered to richer clients.
Today, Abbot Downing no longer exists and the private bank has been folded into the brokerage business. These changes have resulted in an exodus of private bankers and wealth advisors and complaints that the transformation has been messy, "chaotic," and painful to watch, as Insider recently reported.
We said no, no, no, we're going to run one wealth business. We're going to run one distribution force," Scharf said at an industry conference in 2020 in explaining the bank's $2 trillion transformation.
The mortgage business
Scharf has said he plans to grow businesses that will put Wells in direct competition with banks like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, including credit cards and investment banking. At the same time, he has been paring back on the mortgage lending business, which was traditionally an area of growth.
Wells Fargo laid off home lending employees as the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates and the bank reported that its home revenues fell to $1.5 billion in the first quarter, down 33% over the same period a year earlier.
Insider reported last year that Wells Fargo fired dozens of loan officers that it accused of misusing so-called appraisal waivers, which give borrowers and their loan officers the right to bypass a home appraisal on mortgages originated by lenders such as Wells Fargo and sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac if the loan meets certain conditions.
The bank terminated the employees "after a robust investigation revealed they engaged in misconduct," a Wells Fargo spokesman told Insider. But some loan officers protested the terminations, telling Insider that some instances dated back to the first half of 2020 and that guidance from senior managers at the time was unclear.
Scharf has dramatically overhauled Wells Fargo's leadership since he became CEO in 2019. Wells Fargo has brought in more than 90 top executives from outside the bank in that time.
The team has been focused on streamlining the business, including selling assets and simplifying business lines. But some new divisions have also been formed.
Insider spoke to Ather Williams III, head of the bank's news Strategy, Digital, and Innovation (SDI), which seeks to tie together the bank's vast tech footprint and create a unified online banking experience for customers.
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