Wells Fargo to create 200 Florida jobs
By Scott Blake
Is Wells Fargo & Co. getting too big? Shelley Freeman doesn't think so.
Ms. Freeman, regional president for Wells Fargo's Florida Community Bank, said the bank plans to open additional branches and hire about 200 more bankers in Florida over the next year. That includes many new positions in South Florida, where in recent years Wells Fargo has catapulted to become the region's largest bank, based on market share.
Based at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Miami, Ms. Freeman supervises the bank's retail, small business and business banking in Florida, overseeing 665 branches statewide, including 215 in South Florida.
It seems San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has the Sunshine State — and much of the country — covered.
"Nearly half of the households and small businesses in the United States are located within two miles of a Wells Fargo store or ATM," the bank's Miami head office said in a statement this week.
The bank also had this to say: "Wells Fargo is the number one mortgage lender in the country. Wells Fargo originates more than one out of every three mortgages in the US and services [billings and collections] more home loans than anyone else."
Wells Fargo's great size has some regulators and industry observers — although not suggesting Wells Fargo did anything wrong to reach its status — asking whether the bank is becoming too big. Wanting to avoid another financial crisis, they have said Wells Fargo's loan dominance is stirring concerns that it could hurt consumers and undermine markets.
"If the market is too concentrated on one company, and if they were to change their strategy around mortgage originations or got into financial trouble and had to the leave the market altogether, you could have market disruptions," Mortgage Bankers Association CEO David Stevens told the Arizona Daily Star this week.
Well Fargo's fast-paced growth in Florida has come as the state's economy continues to struggle in the aftermath of the housing market meltdown of several years ago.
Wells Fargo touts its record in preventing foreclosures — a hot-button issue in South Florida, which, in the industry as a whole, has had some of the nation's highest foreclosure activity.
Since 2009, Wells Fargo said, it has helped 5.2 million homeowners nationwide with new low-rate loans, either to purchase or refinance their existing mortgages.
Wells Fargo said it has held more than 700 home preservation workshops and conducted more than 740,000 active trial or completed mortgage modifications nationwide. In addition, the bank has provided more than $4.1 billion in principal reduction of loans.
The bank has held two large-scale home preservation workshops in South Florida — in Miami in 2010 and in Fort Lauderdale last year — with more events this year. "We plan on holding such an event in Miami in December," the bank said.
Wells Fargo became a major player in Florida's banking industry after it bought Charlotte, NC-based Wachovia — one of the nation's largest bank holding companies — at the end of 2008 in a government-forced sale to avoid a failure of Wachovia.
Not only has Wells Fargo absorbed Wachovia's branches in Florida and elsewhere since 2009, it has been opening additional branches since then, Ms. Freeman said.
Wells Fargo led all banks in the South Florida region — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties — with a 16.5% market share as of June 30, 2011, the latest statistics available from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
In South Florida, the 2011 statistics show, Wells Fargo had 215 branches; amassed $25.9 billion in deposits; had 5,300 employees; and operated 341 automated teller machines, or ATMs. About 250 employees work at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Miami, where the bank occupies four of the tower's floors, housing its regional administrative offices for community banking and Wells Fargo advisors.
Among the 200 bankers that Wells Fargo plans to hire over the next year, more than 50 most likely will be in South Florida. "These include tellers to bankers who help our customers with their financial needs at our banking stores," the bank said.
To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.