Members of Congress, as well as the editorial board in its Sept. 22 editorial “Accountability at Wells Fargo,” rightly condemned the egregious actions created by the competitive atmosphere that permeated sales activities within Wells Fargo bank. But banks’ efforts to alter their business models into fiercely competitive sales cultures did not start because interest rates have been low since 2008. I spent nearly 35 years working in the banking industry and witnessed the transition to a sales mode.
Most banks began implementing a sales-driven culture nearly 20 years ago when interest rates were much higher. Low rates are not the impetus; growth and profits are. This is not driven by shareholder pressure but by industry analysts who exert undue force on boards of directors and executive management to achieve short-term, unrealistic goals.
By 2001, bank offices were being called stores, not branches. Referrals were a must for every employee; cross-selling was imperative. In many banks, if not most, back-office staff were expected to generate referrals from friends and family. Quantitative, unrealistic goals were established for all. Same-store sales became a new measure of bank performance. Every bank “customer” needed a credit card, car loan, mortgage, etc. Sell, sell, sell. Shareholders are more interested in the long haul. They want what can be sustained by sound, steady management.
Shareholders do not apply the “pressure to produce ever-increasing profits.” What a shame that boards and executives suffer such pressure? Actually, they don’t mind; look at their compensation.
Richard F. White, Gordonsville, Va.