August 8, 2016
John Stumpf, CEO
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
This will be the first time I pen a resignation letter that details the extensive failures and misgivings of an organization. It will be both an indictment of Wells Fargo and corporate America in general and what I see as general lack of long term vision and positioning this organization for eventual disruption. It is a critique of shareholder prominence and the establishment of our country’s eventual fall from prominence, to which Wells Fargo is now helping to lead the way.
I have worked for some epically shitty companies in the past. My time with Qwest Communications saw the evaporation of shareholder value at a rate never before seen in the United States. It has been several years of contemplation as to which is the worst company for which I have ever been employed and I have finally settled on Wells Fargo because hypocrisy tilted the scales in the company’s favor. The fact that the company’s Vision and Values state that the most important part of the company is its employees while the company is constantly pushing good people beyond their breaking point.
There comes a point in organizations when the quest for quarterly profits and appeasement of Wall Street creates what I call organizational psychosis. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo has become organizationally psychotic. How do I know this? My 5 years and 2 months with Wells Fargo have witnessed nothing but disdain for our customers as our sales representatives are pushed to the limits of absolute futility under the guise of “best serving our customers”. Our “Culture of Caring” is unfortunately a lack of caring for the employees of the company which translates into a lack of caring for our customers. Despite the recent rash of bad press and investigations into our sales practices the sales goals of my own and other departments have been increased to a level which is near impossible. This will only further what is already a massive employee turn-over rate and result in a further lack of service and concern for our customer base. My time in sales has seen the disregard of our customers in the constant push of service people funneling customers to me for products they certainly don’t need with service that has not been performed. The good people I have had the pleasure to work with have been veterans that took care of their customers and cared to make sure they were taken care of. Despite metrics that could not be attained by most, at least a few of us did what was ethical and right in light of an organization steeped in poor service and willing to do anything to make sales goals.
It is degrading for employees to constantly see an organization that only touts its successes while consistently failing to address the existence of the company on multiple top ten lists of the most hated companies in America.
Wells Fargo is the only bank that publishes the numbers of its banking products per customer with its quarterly results. Currently, we have over 6 products (or solutions) per customer and express our desire to have 8 core solutions per customer. We tout this amount as success. The company has claimed that only a few bad actors have established bogus accounts and products for our customers, mostly in the L.A. area. I must interrupt our organizational psychosis to inform you that such fraud is endemic across the entire organization. Our customers receive debit cards they do not want. Daily it is seen that customer profiles have fake email addresses associated with them and are enrolled in all our online banking products even when the customer has indicated no desire to use that service. It seems the numbers we provide every quarter are greatly exaggerated.
I would posit that this letter does not pose any threat of cognitive dissonance within your organization. Wells Fargo is filled with yes men that trumpet shareholder value and the significance of the bank being the most valuable in the world while ignoring the collective discontentment of those at the front line of the organization. As such, the incentives that drive behaviors become more convoluted and impossible to attain at a higher frequency. It is the organization that exclaims its greatness at every moment while ignoring its weaknesses that is soon to fall and open itself to disruption. Our customer base that is victimized will eventually find a home with a smaller and more nimble organization that comes into the industry and offers them more. Eventually the organization will work its way towards its nadir.
Mr. Stumpf, you have received numerous awards for the return on shareholder value you have created while at the helm of Wells Fargo but you have only cowed to the Street while ignoring that which fosters long term growth. I consider such executive leadership to be weak and non-holistic in its nature. Soon Fed Funds rate increases coupled with Wells Fargo’s size will create a situation of diminishing returns. I would not hesitate in predicting that the company plans of cost cutting and reducing employment expenses from 57% of gross revenue will further constrain the responsiveness and the customer focus of the organization.
And so it is with great happiness that I leave Wells Fargo behind after this period of time. I have no doubt that the organization that is now myopic was once great. Upon my hiring, I held out great hope to develop a career, earned my MBA while with the company and performed with consistent excellence. Now I walk away to leave the company to constant turn over in its branches and service centers and hire kids that can’t manage their own finances, let alone those of our customers. All the while the company that claims they are the “competitive advantage” but refuses to foster development, retain them and pushes survival within the organization to the detriment of the company’s reputation, customer service and long term market potential.
You are not alone Mr. Stumpf but representative of the mega banks in general. Small and nimble is coming and fintech is growing. Can you abandon the organization psychosis in order to compete? May you have the fortitude to do so, change your course and actually develop the world class organization the company has claimed to be.