Signs of change — and training — as Wells Fargo name takes off in South Florida
By Zachary Fagenson
As the long-anticipated merging of Wachovia and Wells Fargo's brands into a single brand approaches, the company is in the midst of retraining all its South Florida employees to work with Wells Fargo's systems and products but will also have to train one key individual; the new head of the region.
Last week Kathryn Dinkin, a 15-year Wachovia veteran who was named South Florida's top executive in 2009, resigned from the post and in an interview wouldn't say what's next or if she's staying here.
The bank, which leads the industry here with about $27.4 billion in deposits and 223 branches, named Frank Newman, regional president for the Gold Coast, interim head.
The Wachovia acquisition gave Wells Fargo more than 10% of the nation's deposits. Federal law prohibits further growth through acquisition.
Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia in late 2008 for about $12.7 billion. The move saddled the San Francisco-based bank with billions in mortgage and real estate loans but also made it the fourth-largest bank in the US by assets. Wells Fargo also has the nation's largest branch network with more than 6,600 offices in 39 states and Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is now in the midst of wrapping up training for Wachovia employees in preparation for the changeover.
Wells Fargo signs have already been hung on all branches, with Wachovia signs draped over them. On Saturday, July 9, all Wachovia branches scheduled to be open will be open as Wells Fargo "stores,' as the company calls its branches. All other stores will open under the Wells Fargo flag July 11.
As the stores themselves undergo makeovers and take on the bank's red and gold color palette, staff is working overtime to be ready to serve customers when branches open.
"We are spending a lot of time trying to train our bankers, our managers, myself, to make sure that everyone is aware of all the products we have and they understand the systems we're going to be using," said Jorge Villacampa, community bank president for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
To that end, the 14 district managers in his region, each responsible for 10 to 12 stores, underwent three days of training in the new systems as well as an additional five days in recent weeks.
On top of that, bankers and store managers will be in training during the weeks following the transition, and rank-and-file employees will be staying late several days a week for what Mr. Villacampa called "practice nights."
New products include Wells Fargo's Express Send, which allows customers to wire money to Latin America and around the globe for a "much lower fee than you pay for a regular money transfer," he added.
On the commercial side he couldn't outline what new products are available for businesses but highlighted that Wells Fargo was the Small Business Administration's top lender, extending $871 million worth of the 7(a) product, offers money for starting a business, buying a business or working capital, nationwide.
"On the credit side, we also have quite a few product lines," Mr. Villacampa said, but "it's a little more difficult to explain" because applications are analyzed case by case.
Meanwhile, the bank's growth strategy as far as brick-and-mortar is concerned is unclear. The bank has added 450 employees to an existing army of 3,822 since January, according to a spokesperson. The bulk of those, however, are to beef up existing stores and strengthen the company's policy of cross-selling products to existing clients.
Mr. Villacampa said the bank is opening a new branch on Florida International University's main campus in Westchester and is relocating a Miami branch from the Design District area to Biscayne Boulevard and 16th Street.
However, it'll still be some time before Wells Fargo looks to give the construction industry here a boost.
"We look at every market, we look at where we have gaps and that's what we trying to fill," he added. "We have several sites, but quite frankly our first and foremost priority is to get through the merger."
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