Wells Fargo: Calling a Spade a Spade

Let’s call a spade a spade. What Wells Fargo did was illegal. They used private customer information to create bogus accounts, forged signatures and authorized charges that customers were not made aware of. I, for one, am sick of the media and the banks pussy-footing around with their language describing what happened.

Even U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew weighed in on the Wells Fargo scandal, calling it a wake-up call. “This is unacceptable behavior — and it’s the kind of behavior we need to be able to catch and stop,” Lew said on Tuesday at the Delivering Alpha conference in New York.

No Lew, it’s not unacceptable. It’s illegal. The fines and firings are a good first step, but shouldn’t someone be charged with forgery? You stop it by showing the bank that you are not afraid to press charges. Allowing the VP who oversaw the division that committed fraud to 2,000,000 customers to retire quietly with $125 million is not the right message to send.

“We are eliminating product sales goals because we want to make certain our customers have full confidence that our retail bankers are always focused on the best interests of customers,CEO John Stumpf said in a statement.

Stumpf thinks that eliminating sales goals will restore confidence in the bank? This delusional thinking is exactly what drove the culture problem at Wells Fargo. The CEO doesn’t understand how to build trust (or rebuild trust) and thinks that a simple elimination of goals will win back the millions of effected customers. This is ludicrous. Here are some suggestions:

  • The Wells Fargo Board needs to take immediate action and fire the top executives who sponsored the pay package, created the aggressive goals and fostered the toxic culture.
  • New sales leaders need to be put into place that understand a key tenant in sales. The customer must always be left in better shape after your interaction. (While I’m thinking about it, maybe they should buy everyone a copy of my book Honesty Sells!)
  • A new code of ethics with a zero tolerance policy needs to be created and communicated publicly.
  • A new coaching model – one that does not include 4 sales results calls a day – needs to be created and rolled out.
  • Oversight through a company-wide CRM should be rolled out to show leaders how to spot and correct anomalies.
  • Basic sales fundamentals, including close averages and sales cycles need to be put into pace so that leaders can understand what is possible and impossible.
  • Communication channels need to be improved so that those who are concerned about wrong practices feel comfortable and not threatened by reporting them.

I’m passionate about this story because the reputation of all sales professionals is enhanced or eroded by the behaviour of our entire global community. When an entire company act illegally, it tarnishes all of our reputations with all buyers in all markets. Wells Fargo affects us all.

I’m starting to dig deeper into this story and would love to hear from you. If you were or are a wells Fargo employee or customer affected by this scandal, I would love to hear from you. Email me at colleenfrancis@engageselling.com.