The Divorce is Final
Today was the day. After all of the shifting emotions from anger, hurt, disbelief, deep sadness, rage, shame, today my divorce from my childhood friend is final — my divorce from Wells Fargo Bank.
I know that sounds dramatic, but Henry Wells and William G. Fargo formed Wells, Fargo & Company in 1852 and they have been part of my life ever since. Okay, maybe more melodramatic than dramatic, but I do remember watching Tales of Wells Fargo as a kid. I mean, what bank has its own television show?
Fast forward a century or so and I was managing a decent sized organization for Wells Fargo Bank and it was a labor of love. I didn’t get to drive the stage coach, but did get to ride on it.
Those were the Camelot years with Carl Reichardt as CEO playing the role of King Arthur. That is barely an exaggeration. In fact, there was a chapter on Wells Fargo of that era in Peters and Waterman’s blockbuster business book, “In Search of Excellence”.
There I was, Sir Loansalot at the round table of one of America’s Excellent Companies living the dream. I was proud to be a part of that – still am. Our core belief was taking care of employees who took care of customers who in turn took care of stock holders. I was simultaneously a missionary and a raving fan. For over forty years I had Wells Fargo checking, savings, credit accounts, debit and credit cards, IRAs, 401ks. I owned stock and part of my retirement is funded by my Wells Fargo days. Hell, I still have a Wells Fargo belt buckle given to me by coworkers.
But Camelot is a cautionary tale and long before Dale Robertson rode the stage coach off into the sunset in 2013, the window of excellence had more than a few cracks.
I stuck around through multiple scandals. It was shocking to see them fall so far from the world I knew, they didn’t impact me directly. It wasn’t even really the same bank. Reichardt and his knights were long gone by 1998 when the “merger” with Norwest wiped out all vestiges. For all practical purposes, Norwest was really an acquirer but they kept the Wells Fargo name because it is one of the most valuable brand names in the United States and “Norwest” sounded like a refrigerator.
That probably made good financial sense, but it was never the same. I stuck with them partially the remnants of loyalty, partially because “they are all alike” and most importantly because unwinding a financial web is like unmingling lives in a divorce after years of commingling.
We used to teach our sales people to cross sell like crazy. Statistically speaking, if a customer has one product they may stay with you a year or two. If they have two products, retention is maybe three to five years. If they have three or more products, you have them for life!
As long as they don’t blow it.
There I was minding my own business when, one day the Wells Fargo computers farted and blew me a terse notice that they were escheating one of my 401k accounts to the state because it was inactive.
It is true that there were no transactions on that specific account except for the bank’s interest credits, but we probably had thirty to fifty transactions a month across multiple accounts.
The State of Arizona thinks those count, but according to Wells Fargo Retirement Account policy, they do not. They grudgingly reinstated the account because apparently even their rules consider customer complaints valid evidence that we were not dead.
The coup d’etat was a condescending letter from someone with a manager’s title advising us that she would make an exception this time but we needed to better manage our affairs to make qualifying transactions in the future.
There had been other instances over the years, but she won the Nobel War Prize. So, we determined that withdrawal of all of the balances in all of our accounts would probably meet their policy requirements.
Of course, that is easier said than done. Think about the tangled web of automatic deposits, automatic bill payments, over draft protections, etc. and you’ll begin to get my allusion to divorce.
Back when I was training customer service people I used to tell them that customer complaints were not the biggest problem. They gave us the opportunity to recover and fix our mistakes. The bigger problem was the irate customer who does not complain and just goes away mad.
I would update that for when the customer who just goes away mad is a blogger.