Banking

What’s Next As Scharf Takes The Helm At Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo

And now begins some more heavy lifting.

Capping a search that lasted six months, Wells Fargo has brought in an outsider — albeit one steeped in financial services — to help lead turnaround efforts as the new CEO.

As has been reported Friday (Sept. 27), the beleaguered bank has named Bank of New York Mellon Chief Executive Charles Scharf as its new CEO. Scharf will succeed C. Allen Parker, who has been interim CEO, on Oct. 21. Parker has been in the interim role since March of this year, when Timothy Sloan resigned the CEO spot. Parker, the company said Friday, will continue as general counsel at Wells Fargo.

In reference to career progression, Scharf had been at BNY Mellon for a bit more than two years, since July 2017, and previous to that position had been at the helm of Visa for four years. And before Visa, he’d been at JPMorgan Chase’s consumer banking operations.

During a call Friday to discuss the announcement, Chairwoman Betsy Duke said the vote for Scharf was unanimous across board members. The company, she said, had looked for someone with experience with firms operating at significant scale. With a nod to the lengthy process in finding a CEO, Duke said that process may have been a “frustrating one for all of our stakeholders … the truth about the process is that you can’t tell them something until it is complete.”

Wells, of course, had been actively pursuing someone to occupy the CEO office on a permanent basis — and during a time of upheaval that has lingered for years. Regulatory scrutiny has been heightened and has been tightened in the wake of several scandals at Wells Fargo, spanning fake accounts openings and others.

The task is broad, and Scharf noted during a conference call with the investment community in the wake of the announcement Friday that he will be a presence across far-flung geographies, including San Francisco (Wells is headquartered there) and Charlotte, North Carolina, and he will live in New York. He said, in response to analysts questions, “I don’t think that anyone would say in the places I’ve worked that I have not been present … quite the opposite.” He said that he would be “wherever necessary to be.”

Scharf said on the call that regulatory challenges would be among the first and highest priorities. Wells, of course, has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department. Tackling the regulatory and the risk sides of the business, he said, “is work is designed around making sure that the company is run operationally effectively … as we finish that work that just continues to reinforce the operational platforms that we have,” and allows the firm to expand on efforts including digitization, he told analysts.

“There are clearly challenges,” he said on the call, stating that one focus will be on “putting them behind us.” Asked about the direction of the company going forward, the CEO-to-be said that “the company has a series of extraordinary franchise … like anything, we will take a look at what is there. When you get on the inside you learn a whole series of things.”

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