As CEO Tim Sloan stepped down and the bank said it would replace him with an outsider, industry watchers gave varied views on if a change at the top will make a difference for the scandal-plagued institution.
“With the departing CEO being in the press so much, you have people asking if this [situation] can ever be fixed,” said recruiter Danny Sarch. “There’s a franchise risk. Clients can get tired of seeing the headlines and relay that to the financial advisors.”
(Related: A Timeline of Wells Fargo’s Scandals)
The head of Leitner Sarch Consultants credits the bank for having “done some good things,” such as issuing a 100-page report on the bank’s culture and how it can be changed.
But regulators and others have continued to wonder, “How do you do that with the same people running the show?” he said. “It makes sense to have somebody from the outside come it and look at this with fresh eyes.”
Still, for an institution of Wells Fargo’s size, “It will be an astonishing task to get up to speed and make changes quickly,” Sarch cautioned. “Getting an outsider is necessary, but the risks cannot be underestimated. More … scandals could be the last straw for the advisors and wealth management folks.”
As of Dec. 31, 2018, Wells Fargo had 13,968 advisors, which is down nearly 600 from a year ago and over 100 from the prior quarter. Since the bank’s fake-accounts scandal erupted in the fall of 2016, when it had 15,086 registered reps, its wealth unit has lost 1,118 advisors.
Industry consultant Tim Welsh, though, sees the bank’s push for an outside CEO as a smart move. “Wells Fargo has a long way to go to repair their reputation and a great way to do it is to replace the CEO,” said the head of Nexus Strategy. “If it can work for Uber, it can work for Wells!”