“We Want To Get Bigger By Being Better. We’re Not Believers In The Idea That You Can Somehow Get Better Simply By Getting Bigger.”
An Interview with Todd May, of Wells Fargo Shareowner Services
Q. Todd, it’s been just about a year since you came on board as head of the Wells Fargo Shareowner Services business. Tell us a little bit about your background prior to that.
For the previous thirteen years, I was involved in merger and acquisition activities at Wells Fargo, where I was involved in over 80 M&A deals – both in an advisory capacity and in terms of doing deals - in businesses such as commercial real estate, commercial banking, the broker/dealer world and insurance.
Q. So - and please pardon my bluntness - what, exactly, does that bring to the party?
A good question to ask, the stock transfer business itself was not really much a part of my prior experience. What I really learned in the M&A world is how to bring products and services and capabilities together – and how important it is to do so in a way that makes financial sense - and in a way that also makes strategic sense.
Q. Tell us a bit about Wells Fargo’s interest in the stock transfer and shareholder servicing businesses.
We’re very interested in these businesses. We’ve been involved in them since 1929, via one of our ancestors, the old and successful Norwest Bank. We see them as an important part of our overall relationship approach to our clients in general.
We know from experience that getting satisfied customers to buy new services from us is a lot cheaper than adding new clients by buying businesses and paying acquisition costs. So I think, we see these businesses as important parts of WFB’s overall strategy of cross-selling – in a “relationship manner.”
We’re believers in getting bigger by getting better. We’re not believers in the idea that you can somehow get better by being bigger. We believe that spending time and money to improve our products and our overall capabilities will keep our customers very happy, making it easier to sell to new customers.
Q. You mentioned your “banking” perspective. What, exactly does that bring to the party?
We want to be sure that our customers and prospects know how much our banking perspective, and our global scope, actually bring to the table for them. In a deal earlier this year, for example, we sent thousands of wires and billions of dollars to shareholders in over 119 countries around the globe.
But there are a lot of other very important advantages to being part of a bank, I think – especially in today’s challenging environment. For one thing, we at Wells Fargo operate in a very heavily regulated environment. We have internal auditors, external auditors or someone from, the OCC or the SEC here almost every day. The need to have a very tight control environment and a
strong compliance program is sort of baked-into our mentality. We see all this as providing a very strong framework for earning the trust of our customers, and their shareholders.
Q. Are there any other areas that you feel are particularly important in terms of the control and regulatory environments?
Yes. Our compliance group reports to the Corporation, and when building controls for a new product or procedure, they are very involved in providing oversight. They can then monitor and balance and constantly test controls at least annually and they are integrated in developing detailed project plans for every new undertaking.
We’re also very concerned about outsourcing arrangements. We’re careful about what we outsource, and it’s not just the dollar-hurdles we worry about. We don’t want to outsource any customer- facing activities for example – and we don’t want to miss important real-world experiences, just because they take place in the ‘back office’.
Additionally, information security is a very big issue for us. We see it as critical in terms of the way we manage risk, and our banking perspective allows us to leverage the proactive approach of the bank. We have lots of dollars focusing on this all the time.
We’re very concerned about identity theft and we always want to stay ahead of the latest schemes, and the latest batch of crooks.
Q. Are there any other critically important areas from your perspective?
For sure: the people component. We have a really solid team. We also enjoy very low turnover, and we want to keep it that way. We see people who are knowledgeable, and who care, to be absolutely critical to our ability to deliver the first time, and in the right way. So we’ve been doing a lot of things to ensure our people are always in fulfilling jobs - like establishing cross-functional teams, allowing people to rotate jobs – or not – and recognizing that one doesn’t have to step into a management job in order to grow, by establishing subject-matter experts.
Q. What’s different about the Wells Fargo Shareowner Services unit after your first year?
We’re better leveraging the bank in the technology arena. Wells Fargo has a robust global payments system that moves billions of dollars and we have strengthened those lines of communication to enhance our own delivery model.
We have a global technology team that has helped us demonstrate a lot of capabilities to the marketplace I think, and we’ve added some large and very complex clients – like VISA, and their global shares, and their huge, global redemption process, where $19 billion was raised and $14 billion was distributed to shareowners around the world.
We also began to provide services for a new client’s large, complex and truly global ADR business.
We opened a new call center, in a fabulous location, with great technology and a great environment. We wanted it to be as close to headquarters as possible because it’s critical to have our operations within close proximity to each other and we were able to keep all of our personnel.
Q. So what’s your growth strategy goingforward?
We are going after the market in a pretty aggressive manner – as part of Wells Fargo, and its growth strategy. And we are adding clients in a disciplined, “one-at-a-time-like manner”.
As part of that disciplined approach we’ve already opened a new office in New York.
We’ll continue to steadily add new tools, and focus primarily on service – and on service quality.
And we’re constantly looking to raise service quality to a new level.
This has proven to be a very good recipe for success for us, and we expect it will be even more effective in the challenging environment we see today.
For more information on Wells Fargo Shareowner Services, contact Scott Nelson, SVP 651-552-6985