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Last month, my niece graduated from college. She attended a small college in the northeast with classic brick buildings and ivy-covered walls. As I was walking the campus and meeting her fellow graduates, I felt a feeling of renewal and experienced a sense of newness, not unlike many people feel on New Year’s Day. I’ve always felt the “out with the old and in with the new” on Graduation Day when students magically become adults by looking for jobs and figuring out their future road to life. It is not so much making promises like losing weight or being nicer to people but more of looking at the world with a new set of eyes and imagining how to make the world around me better.

Wells Fargo seems to be feeling a renewal with their new promotion, “Established 1852. Re-established 2018 with a recommitment to you.” I guess when a company has been fined almost $1 trillion for earning billions of dollars for cheating their customers for years, it may be time for a renewal. The bank has a four-point plan to recommit to their customers: 1) Building a better bank, 2) Putting service first, 3) Upgrading the banking features, and 4) Increasing community impact.

According to Wells’ website, building a better bank means they will act quickly to make things better and will create a dedicated 24/7 toll-free number for their customer to voice concerns about their account. For putting service first, they say they will end product sales goals in branches and call centers as well as improve employee ethics training and compensation and performance management plans. Upgrading the banking features appears to just add turning a debit card off if it has been misplaced. Finally, the bank will commit to donating an additional $80 million annually to nonprofits and getting more employees engaged in community service.

It seems implausible that a company that large and sophisticated did not have a toll-free number for their customers to discuss their account. How did those customers get their questions answered before? It seems equally farfetched that they have to improve ethics training and employee performance plans. Even our little Credit Union’s (little by Wells Fargo’s standards) Board of Directors and federal and state regulators ensures we have updated programs. Is it possible that Wells’ entire senior management team was asleep at the switch while branch staff was running wild setting up fake accounts and charging fees on those accounts without the customer’s knowledge? This should be a horrifying thought to all Wells Fargo’s customers.

But even with the slick advertising campaign, professionally-produced TV commercials, and well-paid public relations agencies attempting to resurrect Wells Fargo’s tarnished image, they forgot to use the two words many of us are taught from our parents from the time we can first understand speech. These two words could be the most powerful words, in any language, in the world and may have resulted in fewer disputes between friends, families, and maybe even countries. And Wells Fargo with all their money and all their expertise, both in-house and outside consultants, forgot those two little words.

“We’re sorry.”

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802